Two separate Mahwah ambulance corps units will become one.
After an hours-long discussion on whether or not it should happen at a Thursday night town council meeting, officials say a new ambulance service will begin serving the township Friday morning.
Mahwah Emergency Medical Services, Inc. – a new non-profit corporation formed by members of Mahwah ambulance companies 1 and 4 – will take over the two township ambulance buildings and begin being dispatched to calls Friday. The new entity, which is made up of members of the previous two ambulance corps, will effectively replace the other two responding agencies.
The switch, Ambulance Corps reps said Thursday, is in an attempt to unify the two squads that serve different sides of town.
Company 1 Lieutenant Greg Antonetti and Company 4 President Bob Klingen gave an informational presentation to the township council Thursday night to explain why they support the switch.
Having one organization instead of two will allow for greater efficiency, Klingen said. Right now, the squads operate using two different patient care governing procedures, and have different internal leadership positions and reporting systems, the duo said.
The new company – known as MEMS – will streamline all of the procedures so that that corps will operate as a single unit with two separate locations. It will remain a 100% volunteer organization, they said.
Dozens of MEMS supporters came to the meeting Thursday night donning redesigned shirts that do not denote company. They simply say, “Mahwah EMS.”
According to MEMS, it currently has 61 members who all were members of Company 1 or Company 4. MEMS says it has the support of 100% of Company 4 and 80% of Company 1 to move forward with the new company.
Emotions ran high during the discussion as some of the dissenting members of Company 1 explained infighting issues between the companies, and between the leadership and membership of Company 1 that they argued would not be solved by creating a new entity entirely.
Company 1 President, Secretary and Treasurer Michelle O’Toole, and Company 1 VP Maryanne Moore, addressed the council asking for more time to meet with the MEMS members before deciding to switch over to the unified provider.
“This is a personality conflict,” O’Toole said. “Some people don’t like [to follow] the rules.
“We were not even told this [switch] was going to happen,” she said.
According to Klingen, there are about 13 members of Company 1 who don’t support joining forces, which he said prevented the two groups from merging, without creating a new, third entity. Seven of the 13-voting members of Company 1 oppose the plan, he said.
Council members also questioned what would happen to Company 1’s assets, which they say include equipment and about $400,000 in built-up donations and funding.
Councilman John Roth called moving to one new company before figuring out what exactly will happen to the money would be a, “business error.”
Klingen said that Company 4 has pledged to give all of its funding over to MEMS and he, “hopes,” that Company 1 will do the same. However, MEMS could operate without that funding.
Each side argued that the other was at fault for the disconnect between the companies, however both sides and the council indicated their support of a meeting between MEMS members and the board members of Company 1 who have not yet signed on to be members of the new group. Toward the end of the discussion, O’Toole took an application from Antonetti to join MEMS, in an apparent gesture indicating a willingness to work together.
The ultimate decision on which ambulance service will be dispatched to emergencies is a mayoral decision, officials said.
Mayor Bill Laforet said he plans to make the switch Friday.
“This new ambulance corps and its volunteers should be congratulated for all the work they have done with one central goal in mind, saving lives,” he said. “I would ask all residents to consider volunteering their time to this new organization.”