Salisbury’s volunteer firefighters could soon be eligible for a new incentive program that offers monetary awards earlier in their years of service rather than as a retirement benefit.
Once approved, the new program will replace the current Length of Service Awards program, or LOSAP, that has been in effect since 1991, Fire Chief John Tull told City Council members during a work session on Monday.
The LOSAP program is retirement-based and awards money after a volunteer turns 60 years old and worked at least 10 years. Members could receive up to $500 monthly, based on $20 multiplied by years of service. But as of Aug. 8, no more members will be admitted to that plan, Tull said.
The changes came at the suggestion of the current volunteers who are seeing members leaving because they cannot meet the requirements.
“We’re not seeing people stay as a career,” Tull said.
Matthew Rajala, a member of the administrative board at Station 16, said volunteers are first placed on probation if they don’t meet the required hours. After two or more quarters, they can be dismissed.
So far this year, 19 members have received probationary letters and 12 people have been dismissed, he said.
The proposed new incentive program would award stipends every five years, providing the volunteers meet certain requirements. The one-time stipends would range from up to $2,500 after five years of active service to up to $5,000 after 30 years.
In order to qualify for the stipends, firefighters must meet certain criteria, including 36 volunteer hours per month, or 108 hours per quarter, totaling a minimum of 432 hours annually.
The volunteers also must not miss more than one meeting per quarter.
Members who are injured while on duty will maintain their eligible service requirements, but anyone sick or injured outside of their fire duty will lose their eligibility unless they have already met the minimum requirements.
City Council members agreed to move forward with the plan, which involves adopting a resolution at an upcoming council meeting.
The Salisbury Fire Department is made up of both career and volunteer firefighters who work out of three fire stations: Station 16 – Headquarters on Cypress Street, Station 1 on Beaglin Park Drive and Station 2 on Naylor Street.