With the upcoming departure of VAAS, town looks to expand contract with county EMS unit

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider

Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service’s building will have a crew from the Albany County Sheriff’s EMS division stationed at it shortly after the dissolution of VAAS. However, it is unsure whether or not the county EMS will be stationed for the long-term at the building located in the village’s center.

NEW SCOTLAND — As Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service plans to close its doors on Oct. 15, the town government is requesting that Albany County Sheriff’s EMS division expand its services to a 24/7 operation in the district that covers the village of Voorheesville and the hamlet of New Salem, according to town Supervisor Doug LaGrange. The county currently covers the area from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. during weekdays; nights and weekends have been covered by VAAS. The organization lacked enough volunteers to continue and announced its intentions to dissolve in August. Much of the rest of the town, namely the hamlets of Clarksville and Feura Bush, is covered by Onesquethaw Fire and Ambulance.

According to LaGrange, a letter was sent on Monday requesting the county’s EMS division expand its services starting the morning of Oct. 15 until the end of the year. The town and the county will also be discussing a contract for 2017.

LaGrange told the Enterprise that these discussions are no different than previous discussions of the contract — besides the expansion of services for the district formerly covered by VAAS. The costs for VAAS had been split between the village and the town.This may cost the town more, said LaGrange, but all decisions would be finalized and voted on in a public meeting, he said.

Short-term plan

According to county EMS Captain Brian Wood, the short-term plan for covering the area is to station a crew at the current building where VAAS is headquartered on Voorheesville Avenue in the heart of the village. The long-term plan is uncertain, according to Wood, because it is unknown what VAAS will do with the building. The county EMS currently has a station in Clarksville.

According to Wood, the increase in coverage will require more workers, but the county EMS will not need to buy more equipment or vehicles.

VAAS is a not-for-profit organization, according to VAAS Lieutenant Thom Smith, who said the assets have to be transferred to another not-for-profit, most likely to another EMS volunteer division. Albany County’s division is a municipal service, with paid employees, and therefore is not eligible.

Smith declined to speak further on the future of the organization’s assets, such as the building or vehicles, noting the legal complications and referring the subject to VAAS’s lawyer.

According to the Albany County assessment rolls, VAAS’s building has a full market value of 228,800 dollars.

According to Smith, VAAS has been working with both the local governments and the county EMS. Smith said that, although it has not been confirmed, VAAS and the county have discussed utilizing volunteers alongside paid county workers to serve the community. It’s been suggested, said Smith, that volunteers could work six-hour shifts at any time so long as they committed to that time, thereby easing the strain on the county.

“They could work those shifts and offset some of those costs to the community,” said Smith.

“Seamless transition”

LaGrange noted that rumors about a potential lack of service are untrue. Both LaGrange and Wood stressed making the change a “seamless transition.”

“They’re not even going to notice the difference,” said Wood, adding that the county already takes half of the town’s calls for aid because it covers daytime operations.

Smith stated he was confident in VAAS’s relationship with the county EMS, noting that he had answered an EMS call and worked with the sheriff’s office on Monday morning.

“We have worked together for nearly 20 years,” said Smith, “and we will continue to work well together to the bitter end.”

At the Sept. 14 town board meeting, the board tabled its discussion of expanding the county EMS coverage and moved the discussion to executive session.

LaGrange stated at the meeting that the reason to meet in private was because of “personnel” and “contractual” issues when discussing the contract between the town and the county. LaGrange also stated at the meeting that there should be no concern over lack of EMS coverage in the area.

“There will be no break in coverage for the Voorheesville Ambulance District,” he said.

The board also tabled a discussion on signing an agreement with Bauer Appraisal Group to prepare an appraisal report for VAAS’s building.

Three new laws proposed

The board also discussed several proposed local laws.

Local Law E would change the status of shipping containers so that they could be used only for temporary storage, rather than as permanent structures. The board agreed to have the law be reviewed by town departments before moving forward with it.

Proposed Local Law F would let more residents  know about pending applications for building projects or zoning changes. The bill increases the range of those receiving notifications from 500 feet to 1,000 feet from the property that is subject to an application; a sign would be posted on the property for notification as well. The board arranged a public hearing on the proposed law for Oct. 12 at 6:45 p.m..

Local Law G is an amendment to the zoning code to establish regulations on solar panels and solar arrays for both commercial and residential uses. Concerns brought up at the meeting included how agricultural assessments would be impacted, as well as the potential for landowners to rent their land out to solar farms rather than to crop growers.

Another concern was the preparation needed for emergency services to address hazards related to solar panels and arrays, but it was confirmed that training for such situations was available. The board decided to send the proposed law to other departments for review and to consider holding a public hearing, possibly around November.

The town board also agreed to send an application to the state to lower the 55-mile-per-hour speed limit on a section of Thacher Park Road in New Salem. Also known as state route 157, the road is one of the ways into John Boyd Thacher State Park. The road has a speed limit of 30-miles-per-hour coming out of the park, and then transitions to 55-miles-per-hour. Eight residents signed a petition that was submitted to the town, and three families included letters stating their concerns about speeding drivers near their homes.

Editor’s note: H. Rose Schneider has a close acquaintance who works for the Albany County Sheriff’s EMS division.

More New Scotland News

  •  “They say 83.28-percent complete,” Councilman William Hennessy said during the Jan. 12 town board meeting of the Hilton Barn’s new slate roof. “Whereas they’re really more like probably 90-percent done.”

  • Voorheesville Superintendent Frank Macri noted not everything on the previous five-year condition survey got done. “I know we looked at two five-year [surveys] previously,” he said, “and there were still things that were on those five-year plans that weren’t accomplished … So just because they’re on a five-year plan doesn’t mean they have to get finished.”

  • “It would be in line with the town’s hamlet idea,” said developer Ron Kay of his plan for 20 acres along Route 85, across the road from the Stewart’s Shop and in between Stonewell Plaza and the convent-turned-apartments at 1903 New Scotland Road.

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