This year’s Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service contract signing with the village didn’t go quite as smoothly as predicted months ago, but it’s still around two months earlier than last year.
The Voorheesville Board of Trustees on Tuesday, April 22, signed a contract with its local ambulance service provider, but board members declined signing an addendum giving reserve funds directly to Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service. The funding has been a contested issue between the village and VAAS. The New Scotland Town Board chose to give reserve funds directly to the ambulance company.
This is the first year the ambulance service has had one, unified contract with the village and town. Previously, contracts were negotiated and written up separately.
The village previously created a reserve account earmarked for VAAS, which was funded in this year’s budget at the contracted amount of $4,680. New Scotland’s portion of reserve funding totaled $7,320.
New Scotland Town Supervisor Tom Dolin said the Town Board approved signing the contract and addendum after an executive session, which is closed to the public, at its Wednesday, April 9, meeting. The board did not indicate it would approve the contract after leaving executive session.
“We don’t normally take action afterwards, but we had been without a contract since Jan. 1. They had been providing a service, and we hadn’t paid anything,” Dolin said.
There were two addendums attached to the contract, one for each municipality to sign, which stated the reserve funding would be given directly to VAAS by May 1. The addendums, though, were not needed for such an action because the contract states a reserve account “may be maintained” by the village and town in respective accounts.
An addendum is considered an addition to the contract rather than a condition.
Dolin said the town opted to include the addendum to “expressly document” what action the town took this year. He said ambulance service members felt “very strongly” about maintaining its reserve account in-house.
He added the board also did not see why it should make a distinction for VAAS, because reserve accounts are allowed to be maintained within other ambulance service and fire companies in the town.
“It worked out fine in the past, so we didn’t see any reason not to continue,” Dolin said.
Voorheesville Village Attorney Rich Reilly and Mayor Robert Conway said they had not seen the addendum until shortly before the April 22 meeting. Dolin said town officials notified village officials it was turning over reserve funds, but did not send the new addendums.
Dolin said the addendum was included as “a courtesy” if the village wanted to pursue the same option. Village officials have been adamant about holding onto reserve funds until VAAS made a vehicle purchase.
In the village’s newsletter mailed to residents last September, Conway had laid out five instances where the Town Board felt the company did not act as “fiscally prudent” as board members preferred. Conway has continued to say the village must protect taxpayer’s money.
“I would not recommend signing the addendum,” Reilly said to village board members during its workshop meeting before the regular meeting April 22.
Terence Hannigan, an attorney representing the ambulance company, said VAAS was looking to purchase a new ambulance soon. Hannigan did not see why the village could not hand over reserve funds, since a purchase was planned.
Hannigan said the ambulance targeted for replacement is 12 years old, which has exceeded the standard useful life of the vehicle.
“The village, for some reason, has objected to the ambulance (company) having reserves, so they have fashioned this remedy,” Hannigan said. “We will see if they mean what they say by turning it over or not.”
Village board member Jack Stevens said the company already has enough funds in its reserve accounts to purchase a new ambulance.
“If anything was to happen in the future, … whereby the ambulance was to shut their doors for whatever reason, then monies would be given away to a like or similar organization,” Stevens said. “The village is looking just to protect that money, that’s all.
“It would be money held in an account for them, and when they need it we would give it to them. Pretty simple concept.”
Stevens reiterated the village was only looking to protect taxpayer money. He said the village had heard “rumors” the company was looking to purchase an ambulance, but only recently was told it would make such a purchase.
The contract did include a measure previously discussed to have both municipalities cooperate with VAAS to study and development a comprehensive town-wide ambulance service plan. The 2014 contact, including reserves, totals $90,240, with the town covering 61 percent and the village covering the remainder.