NORTH HALEDON - The borough finally has its newly minted North Haledon Volunteer Ambulance squad.
The unit will take over emergency response locally after months of formative talks and years of controversy regarding a now-defunct regional ambulance corps.
"The Borough of North Haledon is extremely grateful that the North Haledon Ambulance is up and running, and we look forward to another 75 years of service," Mayor Randy George said.
Frank Coscia, the squad's lawyer, said the process to establish it has "been a long time coming" before its finalization late last week, and that "the members feel that this process has been very respectful and very cooperative with the mayor and council. Certainly it was devoid of any rancor."
On Feb. 1, the Haledon Emergency Ambulance Association, which served Haledon, North Haledon and Prospect Park, dissolved after 77 years.
In 2009, the HEAA had requested that the three boroughs each buy a new ambulance for the volunteer company to replace deteriorated vehicles.
Both Haledon and Prospect Park balked at the purchases -- with an estimated cost of up to $200,000 each -- expressing concerns with regard to reduced volunteerism and daytime coverage. As a result, Haledon and Prospect Park secured an agreement with the Paterson Fire Department for coverage.
North Haledon, however, pursued a pact with HEAA members to form a North Haledon-centered ambulance service and bought a new ambulance for the squad. George said that "in about five years," the borough plans to buy a second ambulance to replace the squad's 14-year-old rig.
The borough is responsible for insuring, maintaining and inspecting the vehicles as borough property; NHVA members are responsible for documenting vehicle mileage and equipment issues on a monthly basis.
"We want better reporting so we all know what's happening with our equipment," George said.
Borough officials also have decided that voters in November will determine whether NHVA members are entitled to the borough's Length of Service Award Program, which provides tax-deferred benefits to volunteers based on level of service. Under the 13-year-old state program, volunteer fire and first aid units are included, as well as volunteer first aid units that charge for services. The borough now makes a top contribution of $1,150 a year to each firefighter eligible, based on activity within the company and department and emergency responses.
George said the ordinance would be different from the former LOSAP pact with the Fire Department -- "We're going to get a point system up and we're going to make it ironclad, so that there's no ambiguities about what is said," he said.
Under the new code, George said, members on call at headquarters - "the duty crew" - would receive LOSAP credit regardless of emergency calls, because they could actively respond to calls.
If voters approve, then the Borough Council will draft and vote on an ordinance. Both George and Coscia said the ordinance would retroactively take effect as of Feb. 1.