After turmoil with mayor and board, plans to replace VAAS

To the Editor:

For 60 years, the Voorheesville Area Ambulance Service has provided emergency care to the people of the northern-half of the town of New Scotland and the village of Voorheesville. In the economic crunch since 2008, all towns, villages, emergency services, and people in general have been trying to “tighten their belts” to save money; that includes VAAS and the village of Voorheesville.

The VAAS budget, funded by the town of New Scotland and the village of Voorheesville, has been essentially unchanged over the last 10 years even though costs have risen significantly. You can see this on the town tax bills where items are clearly delineated, but not on the village tax bills.

There are a number of factors that have played a role in the lack of an increase in our budget, including paying off our mortgage, turning over daytime calls to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department (no volunteers available — everyone is at work!), using the same coats for our calls for 10 years, and generally trying to be as frugal as possible as an agency.

We recently had to repave our driveway/parking lot and replace our roof — we had the funds to do this because we have budgeted for those major expenses over the last several years. We currently have two aging ambulances (already older than the average ambulance in service in the United States) that likewise we have had to budget for over many years.

Because replacing an ambulance costs about $160,000, we have a fairly large reserve for their replacement but certainly not enough to replace two ambulances. We have requested $12,000 each year for many years for this ambulance reserve fund. The village’s portion of this $12,000 would have been about $4,680 with the balance funded by the town.

The turmoil began this year when the village unilaterally (without agreement from the town of New Scotland) denied the reserve portion of our budget. VAAS has taken the stand that this is not in the best interests of the people that we serve and refused to sign a contact with the village. The lack of a contract has had no impact on service!

The village has determined that these funds are not necessary and they have better uses for these funds. This was the stalemate until the July village meeting when they reluctantly agreed to replace the reserve funds and all parties signed the contract.

Having dared to challenge the mayor and the village board, they now have plans to replace VAAS (see front-page Enterprise Aug. 29 online at www.AltamontEnterprise.com). Having investigated paid services and come to the surprising conclusion that they can’t match the cost of unpaid community volunteers, their latest scheme is to try and use the Voorheesville Fire Company.

However, in this day and age, not just anyone can start an ambulance service and there are also the little issues of training, certification, equipment, etc. The village board was extremely concerned that the ambulance was adding $12,000 ($4,680 from the village) to its reserves for a new ambulance — “That money could be used much better elsewhere!”

Residents of the village might want to ask their friends and neighbors in the Voorheesville Fire Company about the $100,000 discount lost on the last fire truck purchase because the village board was unable to act in a timely fashion.

That’s more than our entire budget (both village and town portions) for a year and would have funded the village’s portion of our reserve request for 20 years! Perhaps the village board should spend more time on those kinds of issues rather than trying to convince the Voorheesville Fire Company to take over the ambulance service.

VAAS intends to be here, providing care for many more years — and we are always looking for new members! VAAS encourages all citizens of Voorheesville to begin attending village meetings on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. The ambulance is only one of many important issues being addressed at these meetings.

Ray Ginter, captain and other VAAS officers

Editor’s note: See related editorial.