What Toms River no longer dispatching Silverton EMS means for residents
Negotiations between Toms River Township and the Silverton First Aid Squad are at a standstill with the administration dispatching their ambulances instead of their's as of January 1, 2019.
There's an impasse after Silverton EMS established a 501(c)3 corporate status, obtained their own state license and hired their own medical director despite having a prior Shared Services Agreement with the township which provides services to volunteer squads that expired in 2016, according to township officials.
This means they can't be considered a volunteer organization any longer.
"Under the governing regulations, if you bill for services you're not a volunteer first aid squad," Toms River Township Assistant Attorney Anthony Merlino told WOBM News. "Silverton seems to think it's entitled to operate...however they want and they're not."
Silverton First Aid Squad President of Operations Kevin Geoghegan said the agreement occurred earlier than than 2016.
"I received a letter on November 30, 2015 from the then business administrator (Paul Shives) terminating the billing agreement," Geoghegan told WOBM News. "This is not Silverton terminating the agreement, this is the township terminating the agreement and certainly any OPRA requests would show that."
Another part of the quarrel is that Silverton First Aid is now paying their members and billing for services which were covered under the prior agreement (with other volunteer first aid squads in Toms River as well) by the township for things such as fuel, vehicle maintenance and supplies as well as providing CSO (Community Service Officers) back up when first aid squads aren't available.
"Back in the day, we had clothing allowances and different stipends to entice volunteerism and there's administrative costs that come with them and a lot of paperwork," Silverton First Aid Squad President of Operations Kevin Geoghegan said. "Instead of that kid whose riding here that waits until he's 62 or 65 to collect a nominal amount, 'we'll break that down and we'll pay you a stipend per month' and that eventually rolled into the weekly and hourly stipends. People now get W2's. We are a 501(c)3 and that was granted back in 1964."
He said they also have a lot of expenses to account for.
"I can't speculate or comment on the other squads and the township's position, our squad is a little bit different and unique in that our building is staffed 24/7 and has been since around Hurricane Sandy," Geoghegan said, adding that, "all of our ambulances we buy, they're not bought out of taxpayer dollars. We are also on our own insurance policy, not any township subsidized plan."
The Township has a different take on the issue.
"The squad has no independent authority to provide services. It can bid for services but it can't subsidize for services and if it's looking to enlist services, it has to bid," Merlino said. "They had access to services at the townships expense."
They want to use township services he says but pay their members and operate independently.
"It's like having their cake and eating it too. They want to have their own little world subsidized by the township in various ways," Merlino said. "Silverton obviously doesn't want to play nice in the sandbox."
All the other volunteer squads in Toms River have renewed Shared Service Agreements with the township since they expired in 2015/16.
"We've opted for a hybrid system with the township EMS services," Merlino said.
While all the other deals were set, talks lingered between Toms River officials and Silverton EMS.
"Negotiations have been ongoing for nearly 2-years and within the last couple months the mayor and administration have met with them several times and left without a resolution," Merlino said. "It's not something we preferred to do. We warned them (Silverton First Aid Squad) in 2017 that we would take this action if they did not enter into an agreement with us like the other squads. The reason they don't want to enter is because it's more lucrative to operate on their own."
He thinks Geoghegan is taking this business and legal decision by the township personally following an EMS Facebook post comment and is using "scare tactics".
"He is taking it personally because his father started EMS back in the 1960's and is still very involved in it but the township is not his personal playground," Merlino said.
The current decision by Toms River Township is not forever, if Silverton wants to come back under their umbrella at anytime they can.
"If they want to come back into the fold they have to come back and present some type of proposal. I'm sure the mayor and council will want to work with them," Merlino said.
Geoghegan believes when all is said and done, things will work out at some-point in the future.
"I'm sure it'll have a positive outcome, the mayor doesn't want this to happen and certainly we don't want to see this happen," Geoghegan said.
They can still operate as well, the only thing that changes is that the township will send their own ambulances instead of calling Silverton EMS.
"The township has not taken any action to shut them down, they can still operate," Merlino said. "We aren't going to subsidize."
Nothing changes for residents moving forward in terms of paying extra for services.
"There is no increase in taxes by not going with Silverton or with insurance coverage," Merlino said. "There's been no hiccups or lapse in service during negotiations."
He doesn't foresee any issues in responding to calls in the future with Silverton EMS or Toms River EMS trying to say something like they were there first so they should help the patient.
"It's not outside the possibilities, but it'd be extremely rare. Whoever is there first is going to get the call. It's the patient who dictates," Merlino said. "The territory is the townships and if they happen to arrive on the scene first, it's there's."
As of January 1, 2019 if residents are in need of an ambulance, they'll have to call Silverton EMS if they want their services.
Geoghegan doesn't foresee any issues with other squads.
"Our issue isn't with the township EMT's whatsoever, they do a fantastic job and we work side by side with them," Geoghegan said.
He said you should call 9-1-1 if you need an ambulance and the closest one will be sent over to you.
More From The Jersey Shore: