BOGOTA, N.J.– The Bogota Volunteer First Aid Squad will be disbanded this Friday, when the borough begins a one-year contract with Holy Name Medical Center for mutual aid, authorities confirmed.
The volunteer squad responded to less than 30 percent of its calls over the past two years; while Holy Name's paid ambulance corps responded to more than half, Borough Administrator Joe Scarpa said.
Response time was also an issue, he said.
"When you have an ambulance that takes 20-30 minutes to get to a house, that’s a problem. Lives are at risk," said Scarpa, adding that Holy Name's squad responds in 7-9 minutes.
Both Scarpa and Bogota Volunteer First Aid Squad's Executive Director Ray Dwyer agreed that the borough, like other municipalities, suffers from a lack of volunteers.
"We have an issue where we don’t have day time volunteers," said Dwyer, a 37-year member. "Our night crews are lower than ideal."
Volunteers from the rescue squad have been driving the ambulances, he added.
"People just don’t volunteer anymore," Scarpa said. "The hospital crew is fully staffed and professionally trained and certified."
A petition was created by Ambulance Corps President Tito Jackson urging the Mayor and Council to save the First Aid Squad.
It states that the governing body "secretly" took action in disbanding the organization.
"The vote [May 19] to disband blindsided us," Dwyer said.
However, "the petition does nothing to address the problem," Scarpa said.
"The ambulance corps cost Bogota $223,000 last quarter," he said.
There is also a supply budget of roughly $40,000 and a clothing allowance, Scarpa added. "It’s not without cost."
Dwyer said he's reached out to the Mayor and Council and didn't receive feedback. He said supplies were also padlocked last week.
Daily Voice reached out to Mayor Christopher Kelemen by phone and e-mail, but he did not respond to a request for comment. E-mails were also sent to the Council, which were not answered.