Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 24 July 2009 00:00
The Mineola Village Board has set Sept. 10 as the day for a referendum for Mineola residents to decide whether to implement a new length of service awards program or LOSAP for members of the Mineola Fire Department. The proposed LOSAP has no age restrictions for firefighters in accumulating credit toward an award that acts almost like a pension.
The village’s current LOSAP allows for firefighters to receive monetary benefits of $20 per month for every year of credited service with a maximum of $800 a month from the village. The program, which was approved by voters of the Village of Mineola in a referendum on December 19, 1990, acts as an incentive to attract and retain members of the fire department.
The current village LOSAP, however, sets the entitlement age at 60. There, no firefighter can accumulate credit once they reach the age of 60, even though the Mineola Fire Department does have some active members that are over 60.
Eight longtime members of the department had filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming the village’s LOSAP program discriminated against age.
Residents of the village will vote on Sept. 10 whether to allow the village to adopt a modified LOSAP program that would allow firefighters to accumulate benefits past the age of 60 if they continue to serve in the fire department.
There is a danger, however, that a failed referendum could negate the current LOSAP program. But, said Mineola Mayor Jack M. Martins, “I’m confident the people will understand the need to maintain a happy and active volunteer fire department and I’m confident they’ll vote for it.”
A similar case occurred in the Hicksville Fire District. In that district, firefighters weren’t able to earn points toward the awards program past the age of 55. After a complaint was filed with the (EEOC), a referendum was held on August 15 and residents of the district passed the referendum by a 162-5 margin, allowing firefighters to accrue service credits past the age of 55.
The Mineola Village Board voted 4-0 to hold the referendum on Sept. 10. Village Trustee Paul Cusato, who is a longtime member of the Mineola Fire Department, abstained from the vote since he received $66,000 in January for the service credit he earned as part of the length of service program.
There will be more information on the referendum available in the weeks leading up to the referendum.
In a Mineola Fire Department vote, firefighters elected Jeff Clark as the second assistant chief of the department. Rob Connolly is the chief with Joe Pratt as the first assistant chief. The fire department is comprised of three companies. Connolly is a member of Company #2; Pratt is a member of Company #1 and Clark is a member of Company #2.