2014 ends with new contracts for fire and ambulance companies
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Putting one year behind it and looking toward another, the Philipstown Town Board Monday, Dec. 29, suggested that coming months could bring a look at consolidation of some emergency services to prevent loss of New York state tax rebates for residents.
Board members discussed the situation at Town Hall in their Year-End Meeting, a largely pro forma session devoted to tying up loose ends — such as directing Supervisor Richard Shea to sign the contracts with Cold Spring Fire Company No. 1, whose jurisdiction includes non-village fringes of Philipstown, the Continental Village Fire Department, the Garrison Volunteer Fire Company, the Philipstown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and the Garrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps and First Aid Squad. The contracts run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2015, for all the departments and corps.
“They provide a great service,” Shea emphasized. At the same time, he said that “everybody knows emergency services cost money. It’s a big chunk. This is an area where there is potential for consolidation.”
In late November, as part of the town’s 2015 budget, the Town Board approved the 2015 allocations to the two ambulance systems and the Continental Village, Garrison and Cold Spring fire departments, along with$730,588 for the North Highlands Fire Department (collected from residents in the North Highlands fire district and channeled through the town government).
Under the 2015 budget and/or contracts ratified on Monday, the CSFC gets $64,425, broken down into $48,232 paid directly to the fire company and $16,193 to the Village of Cold Spring to cover the firefighter service award or pension and workers’ compensation; $184,950 goes to the CVFD for fire protection, plus another $74,658 for the pension and worker’s compensation, for a total of $259,608; the GVFC receives a firefighting payment of $510,623, plus $94,079 for the pension and workers’ compensation charges, for a total of $604,702; the PVAC gets $236,370, consisting of a basic payment of $223,930 and $12,440 for pension obligations; and the GVAC gets $170,000 (with no pension coverage listed).
On Monday, Shea recalled the $15,000 extra given the PVAC payment at the 11th hour Nov. 20, shortly before the Town Board approved the 2015 town budget, given the PVAC’s interest in acquiring two ambulances. “I appreciate their situation, I think the whole Town Board does,” he said. “They need ambulances and ambulances cost money,” but as a town “we can only go so far” in supplying cash.
Likewise, he said that the GVAC’s 2015 allocation is less than the corps requested but that “I think everyone was comfortable in the end with the budget they have. We’re hoping we can stabilize things between all the ambulance corps.”
The supervisor noted that under the state’s policy, municipalities soon must start moving toward consolidation or similar sharing and cost-paring, or their constituents will not receive new tax rebates tied to limits on property taxes.
“This year we have to show some effort toward consolidation of a couple of things,” Shea observed. “Otherwise taxpayers are not going to get their rebate checks. I think this [emergency services] is an area where we could take a look — take a look and then I’d like them [emergency services personnel] to take a look” and confer with the Town Board on possibilities.
Councilor Nancy Montgomery, who has been reviewing options, said that “there are plenty of guides on how to do it. There’s plenty of resources out there” for consolidation or service-sharing.
“Sooner or later, it’s going to happen,” Shea predicted.