Berkeley Township has implemented EMT coverage at night similar to Toms River's, and residents in the senior communities will not see a tax hike or pay more, officials said.
That was the message several officials had for a Pulaski Boulevard woman who questioned the recent switch from MONOC to a shared services agreement with Tri-Boro First Aid Squad at the Oct. 9 Berkeley Township Council meeting.
"We cannot afford to have our taxes go up," the woman said during the public portion of the meeting. "MONOC has been giving services for free."
"Evidently you don't have all the facts," Township Council President James J. Byrnes said.
"MONOC is a business," Township Councilman Thomas Grosse said. "Their thing is generating revenue. This is a self-sustaining program. Your taxes will not go up. Unlike private businesses, governmental agencies are able to accept whatever payment your insurance provides and no more."
The woman also said she had heard that the township would have to purchase an additional building and equipment for the new program.
Not true, Berkeley Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. said.
"The township does not have to purchase anything, build a building, or buy equipment," Amato said. "We already have it."
The EMTs will rotate between the three first aid squad buildings, to save wear and tear on ambulances and equipment, he said.
Other towns, including Toms River, are already using similar programs, Grosse said.
"We are doing what other towns have successfully done," said Grosse, who is a Toms River police officer. "I don't see any negatives. We have two EMTs ready to go at a moment's notice, and nothing is coming out of your pocket."
Emergency medical technicians from the Tri-Boro First Aid Squad started their first overnight shift based out of the Holiday City First Aid Squad's building on Jamaica Boulevard in mid-September.
The shift runs from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Tri-Boro will do the shared service with Berkeley until the township can hire their own EMTs, Byrnes has said.
"They are able to do a shared service with us, at no cost to the taxpayers," he has said. "The EMTs will be local people. They are going to know the neighbors and the neighborhood. The service should be better."
Township officials worked on a plan earlier this summer to supplement first aid coverage in the senior communities at night, as squad memberships continued to drop. The program will be funded by whatever Medicare pays for a particular service.
"We have three wonderful first aid squads that do a phenomenal job for us," Amato said last night. "But volunteers are dropping off. The three squads have trouble covering at night. We've heard a lot of stories about MONOC. I'll just leave it at that."
But Township Councilwoman Judy Noonan didn't leave it at that.
Noonan said many residents - including her own husband - often postponed making a 911 call at night to avoid being billed by MONOC.
"They lay on the floor for six hours," he said. "They know if MONOC comes they are going to get a bill. That's unconscionable."
The woman also said that residents in the senior communities were not informed about the switch.
"I didn't think this was a dictatorship," she said. "I guess it is."
Noonan - who is president of the Holiday City-Silver Ridge Park Coalition - said that all the homeowners' associations had been told of the switch and were urged to take the information back to their respective members.