Minutes of Mayor and Council

Mayor Jeff Parrott called the meeting to order, and requested the Clerk to call the roll. Upon roll call, the following members of the governing body were present:
Mayor Parrott, Committee members Sytsema, De Boer.
Also present: Administrator Clerk Jim Doherty.
The following members were absent: None.

Mayor Parrott led the assembly in the Salute to the Flag.
Mayor Parrott stated, “This meeting is being held in compliance with the provisions of the Open Public Meetings Act, Public Laws 1975, Chapter 231. It has been properly noticed and posted to the public, and certified by the Clerk."

The governing body gave consideration to the request by the Wantage Fire Department and First Aid Squad for the creation of a Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) in Wantage Township for volunteer firefighters and First Aid Squad members.

Wantage Fire Chief Marc Blaine offered a presentation, with background information from last year’s initial discussions on this topic regarding how LOSAP operates.

Mayor Parrott inquired how transfers of members from one department to another department are handled, specifically if a volunteer fire fighter comes to Wantage from another municipality which does not have LOSAP.

Fire fighter Joe Konopinski replied that this issue was not specifically addressed or reviewed to date, but he believed the issue can be addressed within the point system.

Mayor Parrott inquired under what circumstances a volunteer or his legal dependents could withdraw the money from the LOSAP system.

Chief Blaine responded that this could happen in the event of death, disability, or retirement/withdrawal from volunteer services, after the mandatory vesting period takes place.

Mayor Parrott inquired regarding the issue of the Sussex Fire Department, and whether they were pursuing this request in Sussex Borough; and if not, what possible consequences that could have on membership applications to the Wantage Fire Department.

General discussion revealed the following possibilities:

a) Sussex Fire Department members may resign from the Sussex Fire Department and make application to join in Wantage Township

b) Sussex Fire Department may disband, which could lead to a hole in coverage that would need to be filled by the creation of a third company in Wantage

c) A possible hidden future increase in costs for Wantage taxpayers: if the referendum on this matter goes forward with the existing membership rolls being the calculated tax impact, and then the membership rolls increase dramatically because of the Sussex Boro factor, the taxpayers of Wantage may be being unintentionally deceived by the representations being made at this time regarding cost impact.

d) The option of an interlocal agreement with Sussex Boro for combined LOSAP coverage for both Wantage and Sussex volunteers, to address the above-stated concerns in a pro-active manner.

General consensus was reached that members of the Wantage Fire Department would approach the members of the Sussex Fire Department on an informal basis, to get an indication regarding their desires about, and the status of, LOSAP in Sussex Borough.
Mayor Parrott asked what the minimum and maximum contribution amounts were, under LOSAP.

Chief Blaine offered the response: the minimum contribution is $100 per person, per plan, per year; the maximum contribution is $1,150 per person, per plan, per year.
Mr. De Boer suggested that an information newsletter for the general public would be in order.

General discussion also took place regarding the possibility of holding a special meeting for a public hearing to answer the public’s questions about the program.

Mr. De Boer informed the assembly that he would be abstaining from voting on this matter when the issue comes up for a vote by the governing body, in consideration of his involvement in the First Aid Squad for Wantage Township.

Mayor Parrott inquired how the issue of prior service record is handled once LOSAP is instituted.

Mr. Konopinski and Chief Blaine responded, explaining that prior service record is partially taken into consideration, but is subject to proper record keeping to establish that the required prior service was truly offered and performed.

Chief Blaine once again reminded those present that volunteers would need to continue in service for at least five years in order to receive any benefit from the LOSAP system.
Mayor Parrott requested the Fire Department and First Aid Squad prepare a combined letter, explaining the benefits of the program, for use in public education on this topic.

At this time, Mayor Parrott opened the meeting to the public. There being no one present at this time wishing to address the governing body, Mayor Parrott closed the meeting to the public.

Ms. Diane Snure, 15 Mt. Salem Road, inquired where the “start up” money would come from.

Mayor Parrott responded that all funds would be derived from the municipal budget.

Ms. Snure requested clarification on the anticipated tax impact of this program.

Mayor Parrott responded that the impact would be based on a certain dollar amount of impact per hundred dollars of assessed valuation, and that the amount of the impact would vary with the amount of the contribution decided upon. Preliminary tax impact analyses were suggesting that the program could have an impact of any where from once cent to 1.5 cents per hundred dollars of assessed valuation.

Ms. Snure asked how mid-year transfers of volunteers from one town to another would be handled.

Mr. Konopinski responded, explaining that there is a requirement for an entire year of participation for qualification, so if a person were to transfer from a town with LOSAP to another town with LOSAP, the cost burden would most likely be generated on a pro-rated basis, whereas if a volunteer transfers from a town without LOSAP to a town with LOSAP, he/she may face ineligibility until a full year of service is completed.

Chief Blaine presented a preliminary cost analysis report, entitled “DO THE MATH”, which explains the possible costs that would be involved if a fully funded, paid fire department were necessary because of the absence of volunteers, and then compared this cost to the cost of the LOSAP program.

There being no other items for the consideration of the governing body at this time, Mr. Sytsema moved to adjourn the meeting. Mr. De Boer seconded the motion.
Upon roll call,
Ayes: De Boer, Sytsema, Parrott Nays: None Absent: None Abstain: None
Mayor Parrott declared this meeting to be adjourned.______________________________
James R. Doherty, Clerk