Legislature moves $600,000 for ambulance deal; renews sales tax

Putnam legislators agreed unanimously Tuesday (Aug. 1) to provide $1 million to repair infrastructure damaged by the July storms that flooded roads and left other devastation, particularly in Philipstown.

According to the resolution, an engineering assessment of the devastation continues and county officials expect cleanup costs to exceed that amount.

In other business, the Legislature approved a transfer of $600,000 from county interest and earnings accounts to pay fees and obligations under Putnam’s contract with Empress Ambulance for county-wide, urgent advanced life support (ALS) medical assistance.

Legislator Nancy Montgomery, who represents Philipstown and part of Putnam Valley and had supported the change in ALS providers, abstained. She could not immediately be reached this week to explain.

When Ambulnz, the previous ALS provider, which took over in January 2022, recently sought to renegotiate its deal, county officials looked for alternatives and awarded Empress an $8.3 million, three-year contract that took effect July 16. The EMStar ambulance service, which merged with Empress in 2021, had supplied Putnam’s ALS in the past.

Providing $600,000 upfront has no fiscal impact, Michael Lewis, the finance commissioner, told legislators in a memo. The funds come from such sources as interest rather than taxes.

Along with abstaining from the ambulance vote, Montgomery voted “no” on a renewal of the county’s sales tax for 2024 and 2025. (Extending the sales tax structure is a periodic, usually pro forma, legislative chore.) Putnam has an 8.375 percent sales tax, which combines the county charge with the state take of 4 percent and a 0.375 percent levy paid by counties in the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District.

“I don’t see any point in considering this until we start sharing sales tax with our towns,” Montgomery said at the meeting on Tuesday. “We’re not getting much for the sales tax we contribute in my district.”

Unlike most counties in New York state, Putnam does not return a portion of sales tax to the towns and villages in which it originated. County officials say they provide services, instead.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as Philipstown.info) in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government