Rensselaerville ambulance makes its last run

RENSSELAERVILLE — A special town board meeting last Tuesday to discuss the closure of the town’s volunteer ambulance was met with a solemn acknowledgement of the end of the 45-year-old organization.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Marion Overbaugh, an emergency medical technician for Rensselaerville Volunteer Ambulance. She and the organization’s two other EMTs will be continuing to volunteer in their community, only this time without an ambulance to transport themselves or their patients. Rather, they will treat patients on the scene until an ambulance arrives.

Town supervisor Valerie Lounsbury explained that the town would be keeping the advanced life support service — a paramedic in a “fly car” stationed in either Rensselaerville or Westerlo — that the town pays $54,500 a year for. The town will now also be receiving basic life support from the county for $60,000 a year. This will pay for a driver and an emergency medical technician stationed in an ambulance at the Helderberg Ambulance station in Berne.

Rensselaerville Volunteer Ambulance is scheduled to close on Friday, although Lounsbury emphasized that it would be a gradual transition until September when the squad will be completely dissolved.

She said the town would be keeping the ambulance’s former station and maintain it as a public safety building as volunteers had requested. The building has been paid off since the early 2000s, and the insurance costs are unknown, although RVA President Chip Decker said the squad currently pays about $88,000 a year for insurance.

Lounsbury said that Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple would like to use the building — not as a substation, but as a stopover point for patrolmen.

Brian Wood, who is both the captain of the Sheriff’s Office EMS squad and a volunteer driver for RVA, said $10,000 of the $20,000 budgeted for the rescue squad would be returned to the town due to the closure occurring halfway through the year.

The end of the nine-member squad, which includes six drivers along with the three EMTs — Decker; Overbaugh; and Wood’s mother, Brenda Wood — comes during a time when volunteerism is on the decline. Overbaugh, who has been serving on the squad since 1980, said she will consider whether or not to stay in town based on if the two other EMTs are not available if a call is made.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said, of the transition to county services.


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