MILLSTONE – A shared services agreement between Millstone Township and the Millstone Township Board of Fire Commissioners has been authorized by the Township Committee to implement a municipally funded emergency medical services (EMS) operation.
During a meeting on Aug. 19, committee members authorized the agreement between the township and the fire commissioners, who are in charge of the Millstone Township Fire District.
The Millstone Township Fire District operates the Millstone Township Fire Company.
In June, municipal officials revealed their plan for an EMS operation funded by the municipality. They said $260,000 had been allocated for the service in the 2020 budget.
The $260,000 cost includes $200,000 for an additional contribution to the fire company, $10,000 for a down payment on an ambulance and $50,000 for other capital items.
Municipal officials said they needed a plan to provide residents with timely and affordable emergency medical services. Millstone Township had an estimated population of 10,400 residents in 2019.
“Once performed on a volunteer basis, EMS now needs to be funded by the municipality to ensure our citizens are receiving the care and attention they need, when they need it most,” Business Administrator Kevin Abernethy said in June.
“An outsourced service was being used to perform this service in 2019. The service that performed the function in 2019 has increased prices to a point where the municipality cannot afford to continue with the contract and, more importantly, the service provided to citizens was lacking in timeliness and quality of service.
“We were paying about $9,000 a month and the provider collected the billable (services). The (provider) proposed to increase the fee to $44,000 a month and obviously, that is not a sustainable number,” Abernethy said.
According to municipal officials, the advantages of the shared services agreement with the fire commissioners will be direct management, the ability to better control and forecast costs, timeliness and consistency in service, stability, increased community involvement and controlling costs for taxpayers.
The initiation of the agreement with the fire commissioners followed a decrease in personnel in the volunteer Millstone Township First Aid Squad. The decrease had been acknowledged by the Township Committee since 2016, when the first aid squad entered into a contract for ambulance services.
The fire company which is overseen by the fire commissioners is comprised of volunteers and paid professionals.
Committeeman Michael Kuczinski said different vendors had been used for first aid services during the past few years.
“We were in a position where we have been, due to demographics and the changing of the way people did things 20 years ago, limited as far as our options in using a fully volunteer (ambulance) service,” Kuczinski said.
“We did not have the volunteer base (with the first aid squad) to continue the same performance we had in the past. It was a matter of not having enough manpower, not enough volunteers to be able to commit to the hours and time required.
“We have two things to our advantage by using the fire company” for first aid services, Kuczinski said. “One, we have the professional, dedicated service we know and have trusted for many years. And two, the (fire commissioners) are not looking to make a profit. This is going to cost money, but it’s definitely the lowest cost option we have.”
Mayor Fiore Masci thanked the members of the first aid squad who provided volunteer EMS services to Millstone Township.
“We have a first squad in town and the members have done an outstanding job to the best of their ability with what they have.
“I want to make sure we are also mindful of thanking them for the dedicated years of service they put in and do not lose sight of the people who have been here for many years.
“As times are changing, unfortunately, volunteers become less and less (involved). However, we are committed to making sure our first aid service is paramount,” Masci said.