Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Ambulance service in Blue Mnt. Lake at a crossroad

ILTB Nov 21 2019

Ambulance service in Blue Mnt. Lake at a crossroad
INDIAN LAKE--The Indian Lake Town Board held a special meeting on November 21, 2019 with the Fire District# 2 Commissioners to discuss Emergency Management issues with the Fire Districts Ambulance Corp.
Bob Hafner, Town Attorney was present to help with legal advice concerning the obligations to the taxpayers in both districts as well as offering his services to the Town should the Commissioners decide that they can no longer handle their obligation to the District.
Supervisor Wells explained that this is a problem that is going on all over New York State. Getting EMS service, the volunteers, the requirements and the financial end of it. He stated that it was time to address what was going on in Blue M t. Lake. He started with Bob Curry asking what their plan was for 2020.
Bob Curry approached the Board stating that there have been several meetings with the Indian Lake Ambulance Corp and the Fire District# 2 Commissioners trying to come up with a solution concerning the lack of personal in District# 2 to take the calls in Blue Mt. and the fact that the Indian Lake Ambulance has been making most of the runs with no reimbursement.
Bob explained to the Board that they are doing the best they can with their number of volunteers dwindling and other members aging out. He stated they were a close nit organization and feel they do a good job, but they are in a hard place. He stated this is a common problem throughout the Adirondack Communities. He stated that volunteer ambulance service is a problem due to the demanding time that is required with training, traveling involved and limited availability for training.  He stated that it is rare for volunteers to go beyond two certifications these days. He stated that again, their number of EMT's available are low. He stated they had been in this position before and it is likely that an EMS call will come in and though they have a driver available their EMT's are not always available. He stated then the Indian Lake Ambulance is called in. Bob said this has happened numerous times over the years and it continues to happen. Bob told all present that they are very grateful and appreciate the response from the Indian lake Ambulance Corp. and they receive excellent service and they would like to contribute to that cost of the service. He also stated that communication was key, and they would like to fix this problem as soon as possible. He stated that the Fire Commissioners offered to begin paying for the service and they now need to start the process to come up with a solution. Bob told the Board that they want to keep their ambulance. They stated it is important to have an ambulance in Blue Mt.  Lake. He told all they are hoping to see their EMT numbers improve but cannot see it happening this year. He told all they do not have enough money in their budget to pay for a paid service. He also told all that they had spoken with Raquette lake as well to talk about sharing someone to give Blue M t. coverage.
He stated they are willing to work with Indian Lake and somehow make it work for all. He reiterated that they do not want to get rid of their ambulance. He stated they are a small group but tight and feel it is an important asset to keep their ambulance in Blue Mt.
Supervisor Wells asked what the Fire Commissioners had offered to the Indian Lake Ambulance Corp for a cost per run. Bob stated they had left it open ended. He told all that they had set up an agreement and they had agreed to it. He stated it was an ALS agreement where if they need ALS they would meet and pick up the ALS on duty from the Indian Lake Ambulance Corp who would then board the Blue Mt. lake Ambulance and go on the run with them. He again stated that they are willing to pay for the service and would like to come up with something that is fair for all.
Supervisor Wells asked Bob Hafner, Town Attorney, where can we go from here as they want to keep their ambulance does this limit what can be done as they want to keep their "Certificate of Need”. Bob Hafner stated that the way New York State law is written, if there is a Fire Department that has Ambulance Service that provides service to an area, the Town cannot provide service to that area. He stated that they are the ones who provide the service, they raise taxes for this service. He stated the Town does not have the power to extend the district, only the Fire Commissioners can do this. He stated that they do have the power to sign into a contract with the Indian Lake Ambulance Corp. and to work out an arraignment to pay that and this would be done through their budget. Bob Hafner explained briefly the law on how to extend the district. He also explained that the Town Board is not in charge of the Fire District they are their own entity. They are the ones who raise the taxes within their district which are used to pay for their district through their budget. He explained that the Town Board cannot touch their budget, it just gets attached to the full Town Budget. Discussion held on the tax cap law.
Supervisor Wells reiterated that we are dealing with two separate Tax Districts and the Board wants to make sure we remain within the Law and meet State requirements.
Tom Warrington stated that they do not want to give up their charter as he was told that once you give up the "Certificate of Need" you cannot get it back. He stated that due to the distance from Indian Lake to Blue Mt. it would not be beneficial to the residents of Blue Mt. to get rid of the Ambulance and lose services. Councilwoman Curry also stated that if the Districts were combined Blue M t. would not be losing services, they would be gaining services.
Discussion was held on the Fire District to upgrade their Ambulance and numerous possibilities were discussed. It was discussed that the cost to pay for this service are the same whether you have numerous calls or not.
Bob Hafner explained to all that it is between the two districts (Indian Lake Ambulance and the Fire# 2 Commissioners) to come up with a solution. He stated they could indeed sign a contract that would be beneficial to both Tax Districts.
Bob Hafner explained that this must be done between the two districts, not the Town Board, as the districts fund this within their own budgets. He explained these are two different tax districts and must meet all State requirements. He also stated that if this remains as is, with Indian Lake Ambulance responding to the calls in Blue Mt., the Department of Health may question the Fire District# 2' s "Certificate of Need" and they could have a problem keeping their Charter if this continued. Tom Warrington stated that the Indian Lake Ambulance Cor p. have been very patient with them but again he feels it would be short sided to give up their Charter.
Supervisor Wells explained to all that the Town contracts with the Indian Lake Ambulance and the Indian Lake taxpayers pay for this service so when the Indian Lake Ambulance is responding to a call in Blue Mt. it leaves no Ambulance in Indian Lake and this is not fair or right to the Indian Lake taxpayers who fund the Indian Lake Ambulance with no reimbursement from the Blue Mt. Lake district.  He also questioned the legalities to this. Bob Hafner explained that the Town Board contracts with the Indian Lake Ambulance Corp to provide services to the Indian Lake taxpayers, it is there job to provide that. If they extend their service, it will cost more money.
Councilwoman Stanton questioned if the Indian Lake Ambulance contracted with the Fire District# 2 Commissioners and the Indian Lake Ambulance Corp. became the primary then Blue Mt would be the secondary service can Indian Lake Ambulance bill for services? Josh Wells stated he believed that they could. Councilwoman Stanton stated than Blue Mt. could keep their Ambulance and "Certificate of Need" and could respond if needed. Discussion held.
Councilwoman Curry stated that she realizes they are passionate about keeping their ambulance and she agrees it is needed for the community; however, her concern is that the constituents in Indian Lake are covered as well. She stated that if the two districts could agree on a contract it  would be beneficial to all, but again, Indian Lake tax payers are paying for the Indian Lake Ambulance service and if our ambulance is in Blue Mt., we need to make sure that we are covered here. Discussion held on availability, scheduling of personal and the costs per run.
Bob Hafner reiterated that if the Fire Commissioners decide to extend the District there is a long process that goes along with this and they would need to start it now to have it implemented by next year.
Councilwoman Curry questioned if our EMT's could use the Blue Mt. Ambulance leaving our Ambulance in Indian Lake. Josh Wells stated this was a scheduling issue as well with not enough paramedics to fulfill both districts. Tom Warrington stated that the Indian Lake Ambulance Corp. have been very patient with them but again he feels it would be short sided to give up their Charter, but the Commissioners are more than ready to sign a contract.
Supervisor Wells reiterated that the Town needs to make sure that we are not doing anything illegal with this tax base. He stated you cannot use one tax base to fund another tax base and we have been doing it. He stated we are not trying to keep service away from anybody, but it needs to be done legally. Supervisor Wells stated that the two districts need to get together and agree on a contract, then meet
back with the Town Board so the Town Board can make sure that Indian Lake Ambulance Corp. are still honoring our contract.
It was decided that the Indian Lake Ambulance Corp. will put together a contract and will meet with the Fire #2 District Commissioners.

Editor’s Note: This story is based upon minutes provided by Town Clerk Julie Clawson.

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