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Crowd demands Thurman EMS support through taxation

Thurman board opts for merger

Thurman-based contractor Mike Eddy, backed up by about 100 townspeople, confronts the Thurman Town Board Feb. 12,  calling for the town government to financially support Thurman’s independent ambulance squad. A proposition to appropriate $62,000 to the squad for 2013 was defeated by the board by a 2-3 vote.

Thurman-based contractor Mike Eddy, backed up by about 100 townspeople, confronts the Thurman Town Board Feb. 12, calling for the town government to financially support Thurman’s independent ambulance squad. A proposition to appropriate $62,000 to the squad for 2013 was defeated by the board by a 2-3 vote.

— Thurman EMS President Jean Coulard said that in such a merger, citizens of Thurman would lose out.

“Thurman would gain nothing — and the Warrensburg squad would get our ambulance and our building,” she said.

Warrensburg Squad Captain Steve Emerson confirmed that his agency would be asking the town of Thurman for $50,000 annually to provide service.

The Thurman squad — for about a decade up through last year — was contracted to provide services for annual payments from the town ranging from $27,300 to $40,000.

Wood said that in addition to burdening the townspeople with additional taxes, the squad might lose control over its finances if it contracted with the town. She said that the state Comptroller has warned that towns contributing to EMS agencies must set the EMS service rates and impose billing practices — and act as a collection agent for patients who don’t pay. In contrast, Thurman has always had “soft billing” practices which involves collecting from insurance companies and out-of-area individuals, but not sending follow-up bills to local individuals for ambulance services.

Wood said such “soft billing” was not now allowed under state law. Members of the audience disagreed, but Warrensburg EMS Board President Bob Farrell said after the meeting that Wood was indeed correct in her warning.

Wood said she didn’t want the town to be forced to collect sums from local people, which might mean imposing liens on property if residents don’t pay up for ambulance runs.

With other board members noting that Advanced Life Support abilities and equipment was vital to protect the townspeople — certification not now granted to the local agency — town board member Al Vasak questioned if Thurman EMS were granted a contract, whether they’d actually achieve ALS status and be able to give residents such advanced services. He said that over the past five years, Thurman squad officers said they were close to achieving ALS certification, but it hadn’t actually occurred.

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