MASSENA — The Massena Town Council is exploring plans to create a plan similar to a 401(k) retirement plan that could be used to entice new members and retain current members of the Massena Rescue Squad.
“It’s a way to say thank you to the members for all that they do, and it’s a way to keep them actively involved. You’re vested in it. It’s very, very hard to recruit members. It would be an incentive to keep them in the department,” Council member Melanie Cunningham said during Wednesday’s board meeting.
She said membership is currently down to a five-person crew.
“Every five days people go to the rescue squad, 6 (p.m.) to 6 (a.m.) or 7 (p.m.) to 7 (a.m.) and they donate their time,” she said. “Numbers are down across the county, across the country, across the state.”
There would be point requirements that the members would need to meet in order to be eligible to participate in the plan.
“They have to make so many meetings, have to make so many calls, you have to make so many community hours. You have to do a lot of things to get the point system to be part of this. You have to achieve the points in order to be awarded for that year,” she said.
The plan would be overseen by Penflex, Inc.
“The gentleman who owns Penflex has been up. He met with them and he was very accommodating. They do this all over — Ohio, New York, down in Massachusetts, Connecticut. They take care of everything,” said Mrs. Cunningham, one of the town’s liaisons to the rescue squad, along with Council member Thomas C. Miller.
Members of the Massena Rescue Squad would determine what they wanted in the plan. They would not contribute to the plan, which would be funded either by taxpayers or through resource recovery money the squad receives from insurance companies.
Mr. Miller said he would like a Penflex representative to meet with town attorney Eric Gustafson to determine which funding mechanism would be appropriate for them.
“If the rescue squad is manned where they can have two crews, they’re available to take more calls. That’s more resource recovery money, which would probably cover this anyway,” Council member Samuel D. Carbone Jr. said.
If they were to move forward, Mrs. Cunningham said it would cost $3,000 to start the paperwork.
“It does not cost that much every year, but we do have to make an investment in it every year,” she said.
Mrs. Cunningham said a committee that was established to look into the plan is continuing to work on the point system.
“We’ve met quite a few different areas of the squad — with drivers and EMTs and got their input,” she said. “I think it’s a positive step in the right direction.”
Mr. Miller said his immediate concern was that if they entered the plan, it not be on a year-to-year basis.
“If we run this with resource recovery, my fear is that the next elected body — four years, two years, whatever — down the road says, ‘let’s not do it anymore.’ Then it stops. That can’t happen,” he said.
He suggested wording so that the contract would be good “as long as it’s funded through resource recovery or something along that line. But don’t let it be a yearly vote where the board can change.”
There will be at least one new face on the board next year. Mr. Miller is not seeking reelection, and the ballot will include Mrs. Cunningham, who is seeking reelection, and newcomers Loren Fountaine, Susan Bellor and Robert Elsner.