The Avenel-Colonia First Aid Squad has come to an agreement with the McCormac administration that will allow the squad to reopen their doors in May.
Mayor John McCormac, who made a rare appearance in the council chamber at the special meeting, came with a prepared statement from which he read after the council came out of executive session to unanimously approve the measure.
The Avenel-Colonia squad was shuttered last year when McCormac issued an unusual executive order for 911 calls to bypass the squad. That action effectively shut the squad down.
In the negotiated agreement, the Avenel-Colonia squad agreed to drop its lawsuit against the town for McCormac's action in shutting it down and causing it to lose revenue. The squad is to be allowed to respond to emergency calls, and to receive financial aid in paying some of their bills since they were shut down.
"In these months, their resources have dwindled and they have very little in the bank," the mayor said.
According to the agreement, the town would be giving the squad a cash advance of $140,000 - the equivalent four years' worth of payments. Like all of the township's squads, Avenel-Colonia receives $35,000 annually as the town's contribution.
The $140,000 sum will be broken into two equal installments: $70,000 in May, and $70,000 in July to coincide with next year's fiscal budget.
The "cash advance" was necessary, McCormac said, for the squad to pay its mortgage and other expenses accrued since they were unable to make any money by responding to 911 calls.
"The $140,000 will not have any impact on the taxpayer," the mayor said.
When the squad was shut down, McCormac had intended for the Woodbridge EMS Squad to permanently take over the duties of the Avenel-Colonia squad, until a spontaneous petition drive forced the council to reconsider the squad's fate or have the issue decided by voters in a referendum.
The council relented, but McCormac didn't back down on his executive order.
He said last night that his executive order still remained in effect, and would "until the building reopened." He still spoke of merging various Woodbridge Township emergency squads.
McCormac said he still "remained skeptical" about the petition drive that put a damper on his efforts to permanently shut down the squad.
"It was clearly politically motivated," he said in his prepared statement.
In his prepared statement, the reason the mayor gave for his executive order was because of "very disturbing allegations" against squad members. He was referring to a Kenilworth man, since arrested, who allegedly provided prostitutes for private parties held at the squad building. The initial complaint, though, was that EMS workers took what McCormac characterized as a "joy ride" to a closed Edison skating rink for which one medic had obtained keys.
Edison police declined to press charges, but through a still unexplained mechanism, a Woodbridge police detective was allowed to sign a complaint in Edison against the squad members.
That detective, Joseph Nisky, recently retired on an $88,000 pension from the police department and was quickly appointed by McCormac as the town's recreation director at a salary of $82,000. He was moved up the ladder again only yesterday to become the controversial new assistant civilian police director at a salary of $135,000.
Some former squad members and the board who were forced to resign still hold lawsuits against the township.
The mayor also thanked John McHale, the new squad president who took over when the former board members resigned.
"Although the residents of Avenel have always been safe," McCormac said. "This [agreement] is in the best interests of Woodbridge Township and Avenel in particular."