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Back on February 28, the Toms River Township Council enacted an ordinance that eliminated two captains' positions. The two current captains are retiring. The new ordinance sets into place that after they retire, they will not be replaced.

The move was extremely criticized by Toms River's Policemen's Benevolent Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents superior officers and made national news headlines. Numerous residents attended the Council's public hearings and objected to the change in staffing.

Subsequently, the Township received a petition with at least 3,079 signatures which called upon the Council to repeal the change. Township Clerk Mike Cruoglio advised that as this represented at least 15% of the registered voters who cast ballots in the last state Assembly election, the measure needed to be rescinded or placed on the ballot for a special election.

Accordingly, the Council held a special meeting on Thursday, April 11, at which they voted unanimously 7 to 0 to repeal the controversial ordinance.

But Mayor Daniel Rodrick says that won't change a thing. He simply won't approve any promotions to captain.

"The fact is, I never needed the ordinance," the mayor said. "It is the administration's right to determine staffing levels at the police department and that is what we will do."

The cuts to the police captain position - which will amount to $700,000 in savings - will be used to support Rodrick's plan to fund eight new emergency medical technicians. Island residents have lobbied for years for a dedicated ambulance in their area, highlighting that some residents have waited up to half an hour for an ambulance to arrive.

Before the meeting, Rodrick said he his administration had reached an agreement with the EMS union on a $62,000 starting salary for full-time first aiders, plus pension and benefits. Part-timers will receive $35 an hour, but no benefits. "I believe this makes us the best starting salary for an EMT in the state of New Jersey," the mayor said.

He said the salaries — higher than the starting pay for a police officer — will lure the best EMTs to Toms River.

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