Middletown fire volunteers and city officials gathered at Central Fire House Tuesday evening, to urge the city’s voters to approve a volunteer pension program that will be on the ballot on Nov. 5.
Under the Service Award Program, volunteers who earn enough points by attending calls, drills and other department events in a year will get a $700 contribution toward a future pension, with payments starting in 2015 based on credits earned in 2014.
The contributions would be managed by the company Penflex, and invested by the state comptroller’s office. When the volunteers retire — at age 60 at the earliest — they would get the payment in a lump sum.
Fire Chief Tom Amodio said the program would be “a godsend for the volunteer force,” who, he said, have to leave their homes at all hours and on any day to go to fires, car crashes and flooded basements.
“When that call comes in, we leave our families,” he said.
Ed Holohan, president of Penflex, said it would work out to an extra $10 to $12 a year on the average property tax bill, an amount that Mayor Joe DeStefano said would be well worth it to keep the number of volunteers up.
Even if all of the department’s 125 volunteers qualify in a year — which is unlikely — he said it still wouldn’t cost more than another paid fireman.
Middletown has 28 paid firefighters; the city has reduced the number of them through attrition over the past few years to save money.
The number of volunteers has fallen over the years, DeStefano said, and some volunteers have gone to neighboring volunteer departments, most of which have a service award program.
Don Winner, one of the volunteers who has been working to spread the word about the referendum, said he has encountered only support.
“Everyone who understands it is in favor of it,” he said.
The Common Council approved the program unanimously earlier this year.
Here’s a link to a flyer with some more info that the program’s supporters have been passing out: