Ambulance Requests $2.5 Million Upgrade
By Kathryn G. Menu
The Columbia Street home of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps was constructed in 1991. At the time, the volunteer emergency service providers responded to approximately 200 calls a year. By 2016, that number had almost quadrupled to more than 750 calls for service, but the space the corps works out of has remained virtually unchanged.
On Tuesday, the ambulance corps’ vice president, Deborah O’Brien, approached the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees with a request for a $2.5-million expansion of the ambulance barn to provide the space she said is needed as the organization operates in a modern world with more stringent recordkeeping and training requirements.
According to Ms. O’Brien, the corps must store patient records for 25 years to comply with federal health laws. The paperwork is now locked in several closets. When training sessions are held for things like EMT certification and critical care, the garage space, where the corps’ two ambulances are stored, is pressed into service, and the vehicles must be stored outside. Paid first responders, who have been brought in to augment the volunteer staff, do not have an office of their own to work out of.
Mayor Sandra Schroeder said with other expenses on the rise, the village would have to look into grant opportunities. She noted the village is still waiting for Southampton Town to pay an almost $10,000 balance it owes for ambulance and fire department services. On Tuesday, she appeared before the town board requesting payment. The village is also anticipating having to pay for an upgrade to its radio communication system, which could cost several hundred thousand dollars, she said.
Trustee Robby Stein said the village could explore funding for the project as it applies next year for county and state grants, although Ms. O’Brien lamented that the ambulance corps has tried to update its facility for over a decade now.
“This is going to be a project,” said Mr. Stein, “no matter what happens, we will have to develop a grant strategy for.”
On Wednesday morning, Ms. Schroeder said the outstanding balance with Southampton Town is something she has been fighting since the town paid its invoice in February for $794,692, which covers ambulance and fire services for Bay Point, Mount Misery and Noyac in two separate contracts. The village was owed $804,284, according to a contract signed by deputy supervisor Frank Zappone in December, meaning the town still has not paid $9,592, she said.
When the state tax cap was enacted in 2012, Southampton Town failed to pay $20,000 in contractual expenses for emergency services for the 2011-2012 contract year, according to village treasurer Eileen Tuohy, an expense that was absorbed by village residents.
Sag Harbor also contracts with East Hampton Town and North Haven Village. Both have never failed to pay the full contractual amount, said Ms. Tuohy on Wednesday.
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said the board would meet with town comptroller Leonard Marchese in a board work session on Thursday to address the issue. Mr. Schneiderman said all fire and ambulance districts were given the same increase of 2 percent, and this was an oversight by the town.
“We sent tax bills out with the 2-percent increase, and it reduced the amount we took in by $10,000,” he said of Sag Harbor’s coverage area. “We can’t go back and change the tax bills. It was an honest mistake.”
Mr. Schneiderman said there were “ample funds” in the reserve account for that tax district, and a contingency fund to correct the problem.
“I can only speak for myself, but I think the other board members will recognize what happened,” he said. “We will talk about it at tomorrow’s work session, and I believe they will support this.”