23 September 1981
Council Agrees to Continue First Aid Funds through ’81
Borough Council has agreed to provide $3,000 to continue the First Aid and Rescue Squad’s daytime paramedic service through the end of the calendar year.
The interim funding, which Borough Administrator Mark Gordon will have to find wherever he can in this year’s budget, is contingent upon Borough and Township representatives sitting down with the Squad to discuss a long term solution to the financing of the service. The resolution was adopted last Wednesday night when Council members Richard Macgill and Barbara Hill returned to a Council meeting in progress after appearing at a Township Committee work session on the Squad.
Mr. Macgill told Township Committee members that the principle – which both municipalities had agreed to earlier in the year – of getting users to pay for the services they use “is a sound one and should be extended to the Rescue Squad.” He proposed developing a procedure whereby the person who can afford to pay for the Squad’s service be billed and said that the Medical Center had indicated a willingness to handle the billing paper work.
“We feel it is possible that the functions of the Squad be divided into two parts,’’ Mr. Macgill continued. “The volunteer ambulance service that has served the community for many years and the newer Mobile Intensive Care Unit. It is this service that would be billed,” he said.
“Fundamentally, the hard-pressed taxpayer who is barely able to get along is carrying the burden instead of those who are able to pay. Mr. Macgill added. Mrs. Hall suggested a system in which the paid paramedics become a separate legal entity, with a lease arrangement for their service. She admitted there were “lots of pros and cons” to the idea but said she thought it was worth exploring with lawyers.
The salaries and benefits package for two paid paramedics for the year April, 1981, to April, 1982, comes to $36,000, of which the Township is contributing $24,000 on a one-third, two-thirds rateables basis.
Unable to meet its one-third share in this year’s budget, the Borough agreed initially to contribute $5,000 to the cost of the service, and that amount will be used up at the end of this month. However, Squad records show that 50 percent of the calls are for Borough residents.
First Aid Squad
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Committee members were noticeably lukewarm to these proposals and offered one of their own: that the Township manage the Squad and continue to provide the paramedic service, billing the Borough for service to its residents. The proposition was suggested first by Committeeman David Blair and reiterated in firm tones by Acting Mayor William Cherry.
“When I ask myself what are the essential services a government has an obligation to provide,” Mr. Blair began, “and I square off paramedics vs. patrolmen, there is no question but that lives are saved by paramedics. And yet we are accustomed to saying that the police are a necessary
What A boat the Volunteers?
“No one from Council is saying that it isn’t a fine service,” Mr. Macgill interjected. “We’re not debating the value of the Squad. We’re urging a transfer of the cost from the taxpayer as a whole to the persons who use the service.’’
Squad Captain Edwin Obert commented that almost without fail users pay us more than the expenses incurred in the cost of the call. Our concern is, if a charge is made, what is that going to do to the volunteers?”
John Hagerman, M.D., a cardiologist on the staff of the Medical Center, warned Committee that the response time for heart patients was critical. “I think it is a dangerous precedent for the Borough to be practicing medicine by collecting fees,” be said.
His voice quavering, Acting Mayor Cherry told the audience of Squad members, “Ladies and gentlemen of Squad, you will be supported throughout this year, no matter what.” The two paid paramedics, uncertain about the funding for their salaries, have had job offers in other municipalities.
Just as the matter seemed to be at an impasse, Committeeman George Adriance offered a motion indicating the Township’s “willingness and intent’’ to discuss with Borough Council and the First Aid and Rescue Squad “the long term solutions” to the problem faced by the Squad and the municipalities and to hold these talks before the end of the year. Mr. Adriance expressed the hope that “this action on our part will lead to action from the Borough to get us across the September 25 deadline.”
Which is exactly what happened. No dates have been set as yet for the promised meetings between Borough, Township and Squad representatives.
Mayor Cawley Comments. At his press conference this week, Mayor Robert Cawley expressed his irritation at statements by Committee members at last Wednesday’s meeting that the Borough has reneged on “some kind of solemn pledge” to support the Squad indefinitely.
“It was a one-year deal in 1980, not for ever and ever,” the Mayor said. “We haven’t welshed on any commitment. We re-examined our position in January, 1981, in the face of very severe budget problems and concluded we could not support the Squad for a whole year and would give $5,000. Mayor Cawley emphasized that this amount was a contribution to the pot and not specifically for the paramedics or indeed for any specific Squad program. “We elected not to continue our support on the one-third, two-thirds basis,” he said.