The Montgomery Town Board held a special meeting Thursday to discuss the creation of an ambulance district.
Michael McNamee, of the Town’s Advisory Task Force regarding ambulance services, gave a presentation outlining the history and goals of the Town of Montgomery Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
To say that the ambulance corps has struggled would be an understatement. In 2012, the Montgomery Town Board stopped funding the ambulance corps due to a disagreement. In 2019, the ambulance corps was near bankruptcy. Their billing income and donations were unable to cover all operational costs.
The ambulance corps presented their long term goals, which includes the adoption of a new facility, vehicle replacement plan, offering advanced life support as well as having two dedicated crews.
They want a new facility because their current primary station in Walden has poor clearances between ambulances. The location is very off-center, resulting in extended response times to Coldenham, Maybrook and Montgomery areas. In addition, the current Scott’s Corners Station has no restrooms, break room, office space or storage.
The ambulance corps would want their new facility to be centrally located, which would provide overall better response times. They want an adequate vehicle garage, which would include an exhaust capture system, room for equipment checks/inspections indoors and safe walking space around potential moving vehicles. The facility would also have bunk rooms for overnight crews and extended standbys as well as adequate bathroom and shower facilities, storage for equipment and medications as well as adequate office space for corps civil officers and operations staff.
The group hopes to have a fleet of 3-4 ambulances, with each being replaced every 3-4 years. It would cost $220,000 to replace each ambulance. This would accommodate preventive maintenance and protect from service issues with an unexpected out of service. The ambulance corps also hopes to have a two utility fleet, with a utility replaced every 4-5 years. A utility is a general vehicle. It would cost them $65,000 to replace each utility vehicle. These vehicles would be used for first responder vehicles, transportation for education and general business usage.
The ambulance corps hopes to become a provider of Advanced Life Support (ALS). This would significantly reduce response times, as the majority of current ALS responses from Mobile Life come from Newburgh or Middletown. With ALS services, the ambulance corps would be able to provide the highest level of emergency care outside of a hospital setting.
With two dedicated crews, the ambulance corps would be able to cover multiple calls and would be able to increase providers for highest priority calls.
One potential solution to all these needs would be to provide a budget for the ambulance corps in the general fund budget.
“The pros to that is there’s no additional budgets that need to be monitored because it’s in the general fund...,” McNamee said. “A couple cons to that is we could easily end up in the same defunded situation that we were previously in and then money can easily be shifted to non-EMS lines as it has in the past based on other needs in the Town.”
Another solution would be to create an ambulance district. One pro of creating an ambulance district is that the Town would have a dedicated emergency medical services budget managed by the Town Board. An ambulance district would be excluded from payments in lieu of taxes. However, an ambulance district would be an additional budget to monitor.
There are numerous actions that would need to take place in order for the ambulance district to be formed. In addition to the Town Board members meeting to discuss the pros and cons of creating the ambulance district, they would have to notify the public of their intent to create an ambulance district. Then the Town Board would host a public hearing on the creation of an ambulance district. Afterwards, the Town Board would issue a permissive referendum to create an ambulance district. The permissive referendum would need to pass successfully prior to March 1, 2021 for a Fiscal Year 2022 start. Then the Town Board would vote on a resolution to create the ambulance district and the first ambulance district budget would be created during the 2021 budget sessions for Fiscal Year 2022.
The volunteer ambulance corps has a combination of volunteers and paid staff. Town of Montgomery Volunteer Ambulance Corps President Kyle Shorette noted that paid staff members make between $15 and $17 an hour, wages that Montgomery Town Supervisor Brian Maher believes are far too low for those who save people’s lives.
“Having the cash flow of a district would help solve a lot of issues,” he said. “If they don’t know if you can get payroll paid, how are you going to recruit people to work for you?”
Maher outlined the next steps the Town Board will take in order to create an ambulance district.
“During our special meeting of the Town Board related to ambulance services, we outlined a long term plan for the future,” he said. “The creation of an ambulance district will allow ambulance services within the Town of Montgomery to operate without the worry of whether or not they can make payroll. The business model will remain in place so that the taxing district is not relied upon as the sole source of revenue but instead a way to subsidize reimbursements from insurance that often can be unpredictable. Right now the ambulance corps has a basic idea of what revenue they will receive in a year but not the ability to access that funding in order to pay monthly bills or invest in capital improvements. This will become a true partnership between the ambulance corps and the town working together to ensure the very best ambulance services can be provided. The Town Board will work with the ambulance corps on a contract for services and will take up the issue of formally creating an ambulance district at the December 17th Town Board work session. The goal will be to set a public hearing for the January 7th Town Board meeting. As long as the ambulance district is created by March 1, 2021 it can take effect beginning Jan. 1, 2022.”