Following a lengthy, debate, mainly between Supervisor Richard Williams and Patterson Volunteer Fire Department No. 1 Chief Matt Szpindor, the town board voted unanimously last week to move forward with a plan to create a town emergency medical services program that would begin in 2017.
With Councilman Kevin Burns absent, the board voted 4-0 on resolutions to take the steps necessary to go forward with a town EMS, including informing Putnam County that the town was planning to hire EMTs/
The town board followed the recommendation from a committee, which included Williams, to form a town EMS.
“This would give the town greater oversight in areas of staffing and operating guidelines,” the committee report stated.
“The greatest advantage would be the ability to bill insurance carriers and recover revenue,” according to the committee. “An overall plan to house the ambulance(s) is being discussed as are specifications for ambulance(s) and operating guidelines. The intent is to grow this system which would initially cover 800-900 calls to a larger program which could easily cover 1,500 calls and be nearly self-sustaining with the increased revenue from billing. It is also recommended that the town discuss with the Patterson Fire Department the use of their existing ambulance as a second ambulance or back up to the primary town operated ambulance.”
Szpindor has advocated a plan for his fire department to be the town EMS provider. The fire department could provide EMS at a cost that would be less than a town-operated system would, he said. The town has estimated the startup cost for a town EMS would be about $692,994, but after the town began receiving reimbursements for EMS services, the next cost would be about $357,000. The town EMS proposal would have the town hire 15 part-time EMS workers, one full-timer administrator and one part-time administrator. The fire department has estimated the cost of it to operate EMS would be $43,750.
Szpindor addressed concerns about the town not having enough control over an EMS provided by his department by saying a town board member would be on the board that would oversee EMS.
Councilman Peter Dandreano said a town operated EMS was the “: best option.” But Szpindor questioned whether a town-operated EMS was the best option. “Spending hundreds of thousands of extra taxpayer dollars the best option?” he asked rhetorically.
Councilman Shawn Rogan said he hoped there would be “an ongoing discussion” between the fire department and the town about how the department could provide some supplemental back up EMS service even after the town has its own EMS. Williams said he agreed with Rogan and the fire chief said he was open to discussions with town officials.
No date for when the town operated EMS would begin was announced at last week’s meeting. EMstar, which is currently providing most of the EMS, is willing to continuing providing the service on a month to month basis at its current contract cost until the town system is up and running, Williams said.
The town board also voted unanimously last week to approve the $9,567,218 2017 budget that includes a roughly one percent tax levy increase, which does not exceed the state-mandated tax cap. The budget includes $13,750 for various items requested by the volunteer fire department, including supplies and equipment.