By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — After months of haggling, the town and Greenville Rescue Squad have come to an agreement on a five-year contract that will keep the ambulance service local.
The contract also includes plans for the town to build a new public safety building, with the town footing the bill.
The town council held a public hearing on the contract Wednesday evening. The new agreement, which was unanimously approved by the board — with the exception of Town Councilman Travis Richards, who was absent — takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.
The town and the rescue squad have been at odds trying to hash out a contract for much of this year, with negotiations stalled for several months. Talks resumed a couple of months ago in earnest and officials were able to hammer out a deal.
“Being in the rescue squad business has always been very difficult,” Town Supervisor Paul Macko said. “The last couple of years, with COVID and with inflation and the supply chain, and everything that goes along with that, has made it increasingly difficult. Some of the problems and issues we had are not unique to Greenville — they are all around us.”
Among the most significant issues the rescue squad — which is a privately owned and operated organization — has faced has been retaining and hiring new staff members, particularly EMTs. It’s a widespread problem across many industries, Macko said.
“Everybody is short-staffed and there is big-time competition for EMTs and drivers and paramedics throughout the region,” Macko said. “Traditionally, the dedicated personnel that do these kinds of jobs work for numerous squads, so they generally try to go where the money is.”
Under the five-year contract, there is a substantial increase in the first year, with a 31.33% increase, but the annual payments level out after the first year of the new contract.
The town agreed to pay the rescue squad a one-time annual payment of $545,558 on Feb. 1, 2023. The second payment will be $560,425, the third payment in 2025 will be $575,737, the fourth payment is for $591,510, with the fifth and final payment in 2027 coming in at $607,755.
The contract also calls for the town to construct a new building as a headquarters for the ambulance service. A building committee was established with Town Councilmen John Bensen and Will VonAtzingen representing the town, and a couple of members of the rescue squad to hash out the details and come up with a proposal for the new building. The town’s Pioneer Building, at the intersection of Routes 81 and 32, will be paid off this year, so those payments can be rerouted to pay for the new ambulance headquarters, the town supervisor said.
“Our plan is to build a rescue squad building within the town,” Macko said. “The Pioneer Building is paid off in January, so the plan is to build a public safety building for the rescue squad. We are looking at possibly behind the library where the skateboard park is, or on another parcel of property.”
Macko has been in talks with several property owners with land for sale within the water and sewer district to explore other feasible options.
“We need to come up with a design and figure out the property,” Macko said. “I would really like to stay within the hamlet with the water and sewer district because that is substantial savings if we can hook it up to water and sewer. I would hope that by this time next year we could possibly have the rescue squad headquarters within our building, but that might be aggressive, I don’t know.”
The cost of the new building, which would include a heated garage with three bays, has not yet been determined.
“We are probably looking at between $750,000 and a million dollars to put up an adequate building to meet the needs,” Macko said. “It was also suggested the possibility of putting up a three-bay garage for ambulances and flycars, with hot air and heating in it, and putting up a modular-style building for the headquarters.”
There have been talks in the past at the county level to implement a countywide ambulance service, and if that eventually happens, Macko said Greenville would have a good chance of having a county ambulance assigned to the town’s new public safety building.
Ted Nugent, chairman of Greenville Rescue Squad, Inc., thanked the board for working to come up with the five-year contract.
“As those who met with us know, it has been a struggle to try to keep staff on, with them not knowing if they would have a job come Jan. 1,” Nugent told the board. “After our last meeting with your representatives, we informed [staff] that we were close to an agreement, so that held them over as well. We look forward to doing the best service possible for the town of Greenville for ambulance service — that has been our goal since we started this 50 years ago.”
Town Councilman Richard Bear said he was glad the two sides were able to come to an agreement.
“I am happy to hear the rescue squad was willing to sit down and come to an agreement with us,” Bear said. “I thank them — it means a lot to the community.”