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New Leb ambulance service asks towns to cover shortfall

NEW LEBANON–The business has lost nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year and now its revenue will be further diminished by nearly one-third. That would be a tough burden for any business to shoulder, but this is not just any business. It’s the Lebanon Valley Protective Association Ambulance, the ambulance service division of the New Lebanon fire company.

The ambulance service received a “policy reminder” from the state Department of Health February 1, which said that it is against both state and town law for fire companies “to charge fees for ambulance services rendered by that fire district.”

On March 2, the LVPA sent a letter to the supervisors of New Lebanon and Canaan, the two towns for which the LVPA has a state certificate of need. Signed by Christopher Steadman, the letter presents the towns with three options:

*Incorporation of a new company

*Having the two towns take over providing the service

*Having an existing company take over the service.

But in the same letter Mr. Steadman dismisses all three options, proposing instead that LVPA Ambulance continue to operate in the same manner but without billing for its services. To make up for the lost revenue, organization proposes the towns increase their contributions. The amount the ambulance service received from billing in 2009 was $105,281.

That proposal is not likely to win approval in his town, Canaan Supervisor Rick Keaveney told The Columbia Paper. “By next year, the contribution to the fire district would be the same as what [the taxpayers] pay to the town,” he said. “Our taxpayers are not going to go along with that.”

LVPA actually serves only half of Canaan. For that service, Canaan paid $109,508 last year. This year, the LVPA Ambulance service assessment for Canaan is $112,390.

Canaan pays the Chatham Rescue Squad $53,000 for ambulance and rescue services for the other half of the town. But unlike LVPA, which provides only Basic Life Support service, Chatham has an Advanced Life Support 2 service.

“I’ve been talking to Chatham about taking it over,” Mr. Keaveney said. The Chatham squad cited distance issues and capacity issues in its response. The supervisor said of those concerns, “I think they wanted to give LVPA every chance they could, but they might be willing to do something now. “

Mr. Keaveney said that the LVPA budget “has gone up 10% a year. At a time when we are all trying to be more efficient for the taxpayer, this is unacceptable. It used to be the case with the school districts, but even they are practicing this policy.”

Asked about the prospect of taking over the LVPA Ambulance territory, Sara Johnson, administrator of the Chatham Rescue Squad, said in an email, “At this time, our Board of Directors has just received a copy of the letter making them aware of the issue.”

LVPA Ambulance Captain Mary Young, who told The Columbia Paper in an email that she is responsible for the budget, declined to comment on the issue, saying, “As captain I have been asked not to discuss this subject for the present until we, the LVPA, have met with the Town Boards of Canaan and New Lebanon. We have not been contacted about a date as yet.”

Supervisor Meg Robertson said in an email that she had not yet seen the letter as of Tuesday. She would, she said, “have to read it and share it with the Town Board” before she could comment. In past years, she said, there was usually a councilmember who was also a member of the LVPA, “but not anymore.” A question to her as to whether anyone on the Town Board was responsible for overseeing the LVPA budget was unanswered.

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