Council OKs November referendum
By: T.J. Furman
|The LOSAP program is aimed at retaining volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians, and attracting new ones.|
Township voters will be faced with a ballot question in November asking if they approve of a retirement benefit plan for emergency service volunteers in Lawrence.
The Township Council approved an ordinance Friday evening to place the question on the general election ballot. In the voters approve, a second ordinance passed by council Friday will take effect and the Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) would begin next year. The LOSAP program is aimed at retaining volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians, and attracting new ones.
Council members Pam Mount and Mark Holmes and Deputy Mayor Doris Weisberg voted in favor of the ordinances. Mayor Greg Puliti, a volunteer with Slackwood Fire Co., abstained and Councilman Rick Miller was absent.
The special meeting was held to approve the question in time for it to be printed on the November ballot.
If approved by voters, the township will contribute $500 annually to a tax-deferred income account for volunteers who meet certain requirements. Township officials peg the cost at $59,000 per year.
The township has three volunteer fire companies – Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Lawrenceville – as well as the Lawrence Township First Aid and Rescue Squad. Mayor Puliti said there are about 25 members in each of the fire companies, but fewer in the first aid squad.
The second ordinance, which establishes the LOSAP program and sets the guidelines for it, will take effect only if a majority of those voting in the Nov. 7 referendum say "yes" to the question.
Under the second ordinance, volunteer firefighters must earn 125 points and first aid squad volunteers must earn 100 points annually to qualify for the program. The volunteers must have met all the training requirements set up by the township, according to the ordinance.
For firefighters, responding to a fire earns one point – up to a maximum of 115 points. Attending training drills, which can last as long as three hours, is worth one point, with a maximum point tally of 12.
Attendance at meetings earns one point, to a maximum of 12. Meetings can last two hours, Mayor Puliti said. A special events assignment, such as pumping water out of basements or rescuing a cat from a tree, is worth one point. The maximum that can be earned from special assignments is 12 points.
Serving in an elected or appointed position is worth 25 points. Chairing a committee is worth 10 points. The maximum number of points earned by serving in an elected or appointed post is 25, and chairing a committee earns a maximum of 10 points.
A member of the Lawrence Township First Aid and Rescue Squad earns one point for each call to which he or she responds, and one point for each continuing education course taken. A volunteer who teaches may earn one point per hour, up to 20 points.
Attendance at meetings is worth two points. Taking part in a drill earns two points. Serving on night duty is worth two points. Working on special assignments, such as cleaning up the squad room or taking care of the ambulances, is worth five points per assignment – up to 30 points maximum.
Service as chief of the first aid squad earns 25 points, and serving as the president is worth 25 points. Elected or line officers earn 20 points, and trustees receive five points.
Staff writer Lea Kahn contributed to this report.