28 October 1981
by Ron Bartlett
Talks are expected to resume shortly between officials from Princeton Township and Borough in the ongoing attempt to find a solution to the fund woes of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad.
The squad’s dilemma was the subject of discussion at Township Committee’s work session last Wednesday and in a lengthy memorandum prepared by Committeeman William Cherry, who offered several possible ways of approaching the situation.
Restating that committee is “determined to keep the service intact,” Mr. Cherry has suggested in his memorandum that the township should assume full financial support of the squad’s paid paramedics in the event that the borough does not pay through taxes.
The committeeman has again raised the possibility that the much-debated “pay- as-you-go” system for squad paramedic services could be extended to borough residents only, with the township refraining from billing its own citizens.
MR. CHERRY, Committeeman George Adriance, and Joseph Nini, the township administrator, will be meeting with council members within the next week or two, although a definite meeting time has not been established yet.
“There is no reason to wait until the election,” said Mr. Cherry, adding that it would be preferable if voters had the opportunity to express themselves on this issue.
Borough Councilwoman Barbara Hill said she has made several calls to committee members to schedule the meeting, and noted “we’d just like to get the conversation going. We’re ready to talk whenever they are.”
On Sept. 25, the First Aid and Rescue Squad was faced with having no more money to run its paramedic program, until the council allocated an additional $5,000 to help finish out the year. The township has donated two-thirds of the funding ($24,000) for the paramedics this year.
Listed by Mr. Cherry as “unacceptable” alternatives in the memorandum were several items, including a reliance solely on voluntary contributions from the public to keep the squad enact.
THE CONVERSION of the squad to a 24-hour, fully paid professional corps was also considered unacceptable, primarily because of cost and service considerations. as was a full “pay-as-you-go” setup for all Princeton residents.
Mr. Cherry noted it is believed this arrangement would destroy the tax- exempt features of the squad, could wreck volunteer morale, and might also have an effect on the voluntary contributions coming to the squad.
Another scheme rejected by Mr. Cherry would be to leave the squad intact but to charge patients only when the paid paramedics were in attendance. The committeeman said he felt that system might endanger patients who might wait until the paramedics were off duty to request service, and would hurt paramedic morale.
The possibility of making the paramedics township employees has been raised in the event the borough cannot provide additional funding.
Borough residents might be billed for the use of the paramedics, a system Mr. Cherry said has been greeted with lukewarm response from the squad itself. If lack of borough support for the program was made clear at the time of each billing, said Mr. Cherry, the effect on voluntary contributions might not be so negative.
MR. CHERRY said current committee hopes are that the township could return to its two-thirds contribution on a ratable basis.
“I hope to goodness that the borough falls back to a congenial position,” said Mr. Cherry. “I am counting on the very good sense, and very humane feelings on the part of the borough to help work this out in optimum fashion.”
The committeeman said he personally felt the billing of borough citizens would be an “unreasonable” prospect. He said the “absolute deadline” for a final decision on squad funding is the end of the year, but local officials arc hoping for earlier action.
He said squad members have expressed unhappiness over the prospect of charging borough residents, “but they realize service to the whole community is necessary, and they’re willing to go along with these grim suggestions.”
Ms. Hill said the prospect of charging borough residents had been raised in earlier discussions, and although she had some ideas for the squad, she declined to offer them at the present time.
“I THINK IT would be far too premature to say anything about these solutions, because we still have a lot of talking to do.” said Ms. Hill. “We have a responsibility to the taxpaying public to recognize all possibilities… I think all proposals will be pursued during these talks.”
If the funding for the squad does come from the borough budget, she added, it will mean simply that another program must lose funding, due to the severe cap limitations.
Ed Obert, the captain of the First Aid and Rescue Squad, said the billing of borough residents “is something I personally find aesthetically displeasing,” and added that many volunteers have stated they want no part of a “pay-as-you-go” system, which was first suggested by council members as an alternative solution.
He said the squad has not seen specific proposals it can comment on at this point, though.
Although he said he recognizes the fiscal problems facing the borough, Mr. Obert said he did not understand why the general public has not come out strongly on the first aid and rescue squad’s situation.
“Personally, sometimes I feel like saying, ‘why not just quit,’ ” said Mr. Obert. “We may well lose our current employees, and may just operate with our volunteers. And when we don’t answer a call, let the police worry about it.”