Franklin mulls rewards for volunteers

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The Franklin Borough Council is planning to host a presentation on Length of Service Award Programs (LOSAPs) to educate both the council and public at its next meeting.

The council is expected to decide in the coming months whether to support implementation of a LOSAP for its fire and first aid departments and send the question to voters on the November ballot. Councilwoman Dawn Fantasia said an educational campaign to raise awareness of what LOSAPs are and how one would function in Franklin will help both the council and residents make more informed decisions about the issue.

Adopted by a number of municipalities since the state established the program in 1998, LOSAPs provide fire and first aid volunteers with financial rewards for their service. Municipalities who adopt LOSAPs agree to pay set annual contributions into special accounts for eligible emergency service volunteers.

But Councilman Gilbert Snyder noted LOSAP payments aren't a given for volunteers. Participants must earn the borough's contribution through a point system that allots credit for actions like responding to calls and attending training. It is only after a volunteer meets the minimum point requirement that the municipality will deposit the agreed upon contribution into his or her account.

LOSAP proponents, including Fantasia, Snyder and Mayor Nicholas Giordano, indicated the program helps emergency service volunteer groups retain and recruit members. Giordano said he was “shocked” that a neighboring town — Hamburg Borough — shot down a proposal earlier this month to institute a LOSAP.

“Volunteerism is a necessity, and I can see that we have volunteerism in a lot of different ways within the town. But with regards to LOSAP and keeping people involved in volunteerism, we need to do something with regards to that,” Snyder said. “These two individuals representing the fire department and first aid squad do go out at all times of day, all kinds of weather and save lives. I believe that's a little bit different from the normal volunteer.”

Under state law, ordinances and resolutions creating a LOSAP must include a description of the program's point system, a statement of the proposed maximum annual contribution for an active volunteer member, and a statement of the proposed estimated total amount to be budgeted for the program. It is those types of details — like the contribution amount and the number of volunteers who would be eligible for the program — that will be discussed in the LOSAP presentation, Snyder said.

While Snyder indicated Franklin has yet to nail down the particulars of its potential LOSAP, Fantasia said the borough is being guided by program parameters shared by Hardyston Township.

Hardyston Township adopted a LOSAP for its volunteer fire department and first aid squad in 2001, with an initial contribution rate of $500 per eligible member. Township voters in 2014 opted to raise that amount to $1,150 per member.

For a Franklin LOSAP question to be on the November ballot, the Council must pass a resolution in favor of the program at least 81 days before election day.

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