At the conclusion of the Thurman Town Board meeting Monday Nov. 14, the leaders of two ambulance squads formerly competing to be local sanctioned squad exchanged friendly compliments. Warrensburg EMS captain Steve Emerson (left) shares his thoughts with Thurman squad President Jean Coulard (center) and Thurman squad Captain John O’Neill. Monday, Warrensburg EMS withdrew their bid for the contract to be the town’s primary agency in 2012, citing that the town wasn’t paying enough for their services.
Residents of Thurman with urgent medical problems will again be seeing familiar faces manning ambulances responding to emergencies, if negotiations proceed as predicted.
Warrensburg Emergency Medical Services notified the town Monday Nov. 14 they will not be providing primary response coverage for the town beginning Jan. 1, and the Thurman squad, which had its contract with the town terminated by the town’s leaders earlier this year, pledged this week to provide such services immediately.
“We’ll be providing 24-7 coverage,” Squad President Jean Coulard pledged at the special town board meeting Monday. “Our paid EMTs and volunteers have have been — and will be — manning our station.”
After Thurman leaders cut the town’s annual allocation to the Warrensburg Squad from $40,000 for 2011 to $20,000 for 2012, Warrensburg backed out of their proposal to provide primary coverage. This development was announced in a letter read at Monday’s board meeting, when the town council passed the 2012 budget which specified the lower sum.
Warrensburg Squad Captain Steve Emerson said in his letter that the $20,000 earmarked for ambulance services in 2012 was not nearly enough to assure appropriate coverage.
“The $20,000.00 that you put into your budget for EMS for this next year is completely inadequate to assist whatever agency provides EMS to your town,” his letter to the town read.
Coulard said her squad’s ambulance would be rollingl, while it’s leaders negotiate an adequate figure. She said her squad would need at least $40,000 per year from the town, out of which they’d make one of two final payments for the ambulance back to the town. Coulard estimated that her agency would be receiving $54,000 from billing patients and health insurers, and would raise the remainder of their revenue from donations.
“People in Thurman have always been generous with us,” she said.
Emerson questioned whether Coulard’s budget was realistic, saying that with the costs of equipment, training, insurance and keeping paid staffing on duty, Thurman’s board would have to boost their contract amount.
“We asked them last week to consider raising the contract amount and they responded with a flat ‘No,’” he said. “But it costs $600 for an ambulance to roll out of the station’s door.”
Emerson said he hoped that for the sake of maintaining public safety, he hoped that the town board boosts their support for emergency medical services.
“Without the sincere support of the town, no singular agency can or would survive, and the risk of losing EMS coverage for the town of Thurman completely, is very real,” he said in the letter.
The town and Thurman EMS also have to end a months-old squabble over who owns the ambulance, as both the town board and the Thurman squad are claiming ownership of the vehicle, which now is in the squad’s possession.
Town supervisor Evelyn Wood has noted that the vehicle’s title cites the town is the owner, but squad leaders counter that the town has a written contract with the squad that specifies the town will transfer ownership when the last payment is made — and the squad is current in its payments, with only two to go.
Wood has said the board is ready to launch a lawsuit to force the vehicle’s return, saying that the contract has “defects.”
Monday, the board retreated behind closed doors to discuss “potential litigation.” They emerged from their executive session, citing they made no decisions on the matter.
Emerson said the two entities have to solve their differences and the town needs to step up its financial support. He also said his squad would continue to provide Advanced Life Support Services as needed.
“The town board and Thurman EMS are going to have to work together to provide adequate services — I hope it works out for both of them,” he said.
Coulard said she appreciated Emerson’s sentiments and advice to the town board.
”I can’t thank Steve Emerson enough for the nice letter he wrote,” Coulard said. “and now we hope the town will step up their contributions and adequately support our squad.”
After the town meeting, Thurman EMS leaders met at their headquarters, and reiterated plans for round-the-clock coverage.
Coulard said the squad meeting was a positive one, with agency members upbeat about being in position to likely be reinstated as the sanctioned EMS provider. The squad has about 20 active members.
“Squad members are very happy — they’re very pleased to be back in a part of things again,” she said. “This was a very welcome thing for the Warrensburg squad to pull back their bid.”
She indicated that her squad’s continuing campaign to be the sanctioned local agency had been justified.
“We had to fight — we would not give up — we knew the people wanted us to stay,” she said.