Howell residents to vote on first aid benefits plan

Staff Writer

Howell residents to vote
on first aid benefits plan
Staff Writer

HOWELL — Residents who turn out to vote election day will be asked to approve a pension plan for the township’s first aid squad volunteers.

On Nov. 4, voters will be asked to approve a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) for first aid squad volunteers.

The cost of supporting the LOSAP annuity fund has been put at $5 per year for the owner of home with an assessed value of $100,000, $10 per year for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000 and $15 per year for the owner of a home assessed at $300,000.

Former mayor Suzanne Veitengruber chaired the committee that conducted the research that resulted in an ordinance that was approved by the Township Council in July. The ordinance was needed to put the referendum question on the November ballot.

Veitengruber said LOSAP — if it is approved by voters — will be an incentive to recruit and retain volunteers.

She said that since 1998, New Jersey municipalities and fire districts have been permitted to grant length of service awards to their volunteer emergency service organizations. She said more than 200 fire and first aid organizations now enjoy this benefit and use this tool to recruit and retain members.

Veitengruber stressed the importance of the community’s first aid volunteers and said that while most residents may go their whole life without needing to call the first aid squad, the one time they do will make all the difference. Especially, she noted, when one considers that a pri­vate ambulance ride to the hospital can cost a minimum of $1,000.

She said the township’s five fire dis­tricts all have a pension program in place for their volunteers.

Veitengruber explained the way volun­teers would be vested in LOSAP. She said a point system has been devised wherein volunteers would be vested in the pro­gram after five active years of service in any one of the town’s three first aid squads — the Howell First Aid Squad, the Howell-Farmingdale First Aid Squad and the Ramtown First Aid Squad.

The points would be acquired by answering first aid calls and attending training ses­sions.

Veitengruber said if the public ques­tion is approved on Nov. 4, then 2004 will be the first official points year and pay­ments into the LOSAP fund will start with the 2005 municipal budget.

She said the program would cost Howell $1,160 per year per qualified member, for an an­nual total of approximately $143,000.

Veitengruber said an active first aid squad member who accumulates 100 points in a calendar year would have $1,160 deposited in an annuity account under his or her name.

College student volunteers who accumulate at least 65 points would be awarded 50 percent of the benefit, $580. Active life members who do not attain 100 points, but attain at least 65 points would also receive 50 percent of the benefit.

The annual awards would accrue for a minimum of five years before a member could claim the annuity. If a member is inactive for more than two years, the funds revert back to the town­ship, she said.

Speaking of the importance of having LOSAP for first aid squad volunteers, Veitengruber said, "It is a small price to pay to keep and recruit people and a small token the municipality can give back" to the volunteers.