Voorheesville officials have not reached an agreement with its local ambulance service provider for this year, but negotiations are progressing without the contentious debates of prior years.
Negotiations appeared to be at a standstill during the Voorheesville Board of Trustees workshop meeting Tuesday, Jan. 28, with village officials waiting to hear back from Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service on contract terms it and New Scotland officials proposed. During the meeting, though, the company emailed Village Attorney Richard Reilly its proposed changes to the contract.
Most contract changes proposed were “administrative in nature,” Reilly said, but the main sticking point surrounded the two municipalities holding VAAS reserve account funds.
“So far, the negotiations have been much more low-key and non-adversarial,” Mayor Robert Conway said. “The one issue is the question about the reserves, and I am hopeful that will just be a matter of clarifying our position and what we want to do there.”
During the board’s regular meeting later that night, it unanimously approved creating and funding its reserve account for the ambulance company. Around $4,800 will be earmarked for the company, which is the amount included in the proposed contract.
Conway said the company has had “a little bit of hesitation” with having the village and town handling reserve accounts. He said the company’s reserves are separated from the village’s general fund, so local officials could not use the money for operating costs and other similar expenses.
The reserve account the village board created could only be used towards public safety vehicles, such as an ambulance or a fire truck. Conway said this ensures future boards would be bound to the reserve agreement.
“By creating this public safety vehicle reserve, it kind of formalizes that understanding,” Conway said. “They obviously have enough money right now to buy an ambulance. It’s not that there would be a concern they need to access money that is not available to them right now.”
VAAS Board of Directors Chairwoman Denise Garrah said it was “premature” to discuss negotiations, but was hopeful about reaching an agreement.
“We are hoping that this is settled so maybe we can have an extended contract,” Garrah said.
She said a three- to five-year contract would allow ambulance service volunteers to “focus on what (they’re) supposed to do.”
Conway predicts the contract will be signed before March — unlike last year when negotiations were in limbo until July when the village board, despite its objections, approved awarding $8,800 in reserve funds.
Previously, there was new language added into this year’s proposed contract that would have the town, village and VAAS study and develop a comprehensive plan for town-wide ambulance services. Village officials have expressed concern over a plan being implemented by 2015.
“The wave of the future is certainly going to have to be some type of town-wide service that incorporates all the volunteer agencies and also the (County Sheriff’s Office),” Conway said. “Our only hesitation with that is it’s going to take a fair amount of work and research. … That is detail as opposed to philosophy … I think we are all in agreement that is the direction we are going to want to head.”