To the rescue

New Scotland may take over ambulance contract from village

VOORHEESVILLE — After about half a year without a contract with the village, the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service may end up under contract only with the town of New Scotland, which encompasses the village.

Until now, the town covered about 60 percent of the ambulance squad’s $100,000 budget and the village covered the remaining 40 percent.  Two years ago, at the request of both municipalities, the squad began a revenue recovery system, collecting payment from insurance companies for transporting patients, and then presenting checks to each municipality.

The cost of an average response to an emergency call is $450, a group from the squad told the town board at a recent meeting, and they’ve been getting returns of 68 to 70 percent from insurance companies.

Members of the squad attended the meeting because they were concerned about their contract negotiations with the village, which has a fiscal year that runs from June 1 to May 31.  The Ambulance Service depends on having money from the municipalities up front so that it can operate, and pay back the revenue recovery funds as they come in, but the squad hadn’t received any money from the village since May, the members said.

According to Voorheesville Mayor Robert Conway, the village needs to get an annual financial report and quarterly usage reports from the Ambulance Service.  The usage reports, which state the number of calls answered, are provided from the squad sporadically, Conway said, and the village recently received the financial statement for 2009.

At the town board meeting, members of the squad said that the village is provided with the same paperwork that the town gets.

The second point of disagreement in the contract negotiation is that the village would prefer to pay the Ambulance Service at the end of the year rather than the beginning.  The village told the ambulance squad that if, at the end of the year, it couldn’t meet its expenses, “We’ll help you out,” said Terence Hannigan, the lawyer representing the squad.  “You can’t gauge for ‘We’ll help you out.’  You can’t budget for it,” he said.

Conway explained that what he meant was that, if the revue recovery fell short of the squad’s budget, the village would then pay its 40 percent of the difference.  He likened the village’s stance on paying its part of the ambulance subsidy to a person paying a mortgage, asking if it would be preferable to pay it all on Jan. 1 or spread out the payments over 12 months.

Robin Shufelt, captain of the ambulance squad, didn’t want to speak in detail about the contract negotiations since the squad has plans to discuss a new contract in the coming weeks.

Asked if the village and the squad might ask the town to take over the contract on behalf of all residents, including those in the village, Shufelt said, “It’s under discussion.”  That route seemed to have appeal to both parties.

“It would make sense if the squad only had to deal with one municipality,” New Scotland Supervisor Thomas Dolin said yesterday.  He and the other town board members had seemed less than interested in the idea when the Ambulance Service attended their November meeting.

“Now that everybody stands back and looks at it fresh, it does seem to make sense,” Dolin said of his changed tenor.

 The town shares the same fiscal calendar, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, with the squad and it could make coordinating the Length of Service Award Program for volunteers easier for the Ambulance Service, he said.

It’s up to the village and the squad to decide what they want to do, Dolin said, adding of the town, “We are going to accommodate the village and the Ambulance Service whatever way they like.”

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