By Natalie Anzarouth |
MIDDLETOWN – A new township-funded death benefit incentive has been established for eligible members of the volunteer fire department.
Local legislation establishing a death benefit in the amount of $5,000 per individual was unanimously adopted by the Township Committee Sept. 4.
As stated in the ordinance, the formal establishment of this program “is a small price to pay to enhance the ability of the township’s volunteer fire departments to retain existing members while helping recruit new ones.”
Fire Chief Ryan M. Clarke said, “We take pride that the township is doing this,” adding that volunteers are grateful for the township’s recognition of their personal commitments.
The death benefit incentive comes after a number of volunteer firefighters have passed away over the years, many of whom dedicated most of their life to the department, according to Clarke. “A lot of them who were friends of mine, had a long history with the department,”
Clarke said, adding, “While $5,000 doesn’t seem like a lot of money to a lot of people, when it comes time to needing that, it can be a matter of having a funeral or not.”
According to the ordinance, the township saves tens of millions of dollars per year because of the services the volunteers provide, and the township “recognizes the personal commitment of its volunteers,” including emergency response, and “countless hours of volunteer service required to stay current on training.”
Clarke confirmed that volunteers do not have to die in the line of duty to be eligible to receive the benefit. Instead it is based on their length of service over a period of time.
In order to qualify for the death benefit, active volunteers would have to have a minimum of seven years for the Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP). Additionally, any elected or appointed positions would qualify for the death benefit after a minimum of 10 years of LOSAP eligibility. This would allow volunteers in administrative roles to qualify for this death benefit as well.
Life members who have completed these qualifying standards as of Aug. 20, 2018 are automatically eligible for this benefit, the ordinance states. “I believe that gives everyone a certain level of peace of mind,” Clarke said.
The township has more than 450 members, according to Clarke, with 11 fire companies operating and covering more than 40 square miles of the township.
When asked how he felt about the time and effort of the township’s volunteers Clarke said, “It’s priceless. Each one of our members takes time out of their personal life. Whether we’re eating dinner with our family, whether it’s 4 a.m. or 4 p.m., we’re always on duty. ”
Claims for the death benefit must be filed by the designated beneficiary, in writing, within 12 months of the date of death, the ordinance states.
This article was first published in the Sept. 13-20, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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