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Flycar passes Health Services Committee

Greene County Emergency Services Board of Directors President Mark Evans, right, addresses the Greene County Legislature about the proposed flycar for the mountaintop.
November 7, 2019 05:35 pm

Columbia-Greene Media

CATSKILL — A request for a second flycar on the mountaintop was heeded Wednesday night.

Although the resolution must go through the Finance Committee and then the full Greene County Legislature, it successfully passed the Health Services Committee in a 6-3 vote.

A flycar is a paramedic vehicle that preps patients for transport prior to the arrival of an ambulance. Mountaintop officials have requested a second vehicle for the flycar system to improve response times in the area.

Legislators Patricia Handel, R-Durham, Gregory Davis, R-Greenville, Ed Bloomer, R-Athens, Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, Harry Lennon, D-Cairo and Jack Keller, R-Catskill voted in favor of the resolution.

Legislator Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, opposed the resolution. Legislators Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie, and William Lawrence, R-Cairo, were absent.

Hunter Town Supervisor Daryl Legg was pleased with the outcome, he said Thursday.

“It went as I expected,” he said. “I knew that Matt Luvera and Mike Bulich weren’t going to support it. I was happy that the rest of the legislators see the need for the flycar and its value to the county as a whole.”

Bulich, R-Catskill, suggested at the meeting that the mountaintop towns pay for the car and dedicate it to the mountaintop.

“That’s not what the proposal is,” Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, said. “They are asking for it to go from a four-car system to a five-car system. The car will move as part of that system.”

Luvera read comments from Greene County Emergency Services Board of Directors President Mark Evans.

“[Evans] said it was a decision based on emotion rather than on call volume or response time,” Luvera said. “There are no facts to support the addition of the truck.”

“The only thing I can point to, to justify another truck, is reducing response time,” Evans said at the same March meeting.

The response time for the three vehicles stationed in the valley is nine minutes, Evans said, while the mountaintop vehicle’s response time is 14 minutes.

Greene EMS has pledged $90,000 toward the vehicle, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said.

They also funded the renovations necessary to relocate the current flycar on the mountain from Windham to Hunter, Linger said.

The county is also seeking a State and Municipal Facilities Program (SAM) Grant from the state Assembly for the project, Groden said.

Luvera said he believes the mountaintop’s issue stems from the loss of ambulance services in Lexington, Jewett and Prattsville.

“The mountaintop towns are not dealing with this problem, they are asking us to deal with it,” he said. “This is a town issue we are taking on as a county and asking county taxpayers to pay for it.”

Luvera said the towns should take responsibility for the problem, “just like Catskill did.”

Catskill has an Advanced Life Support ambulance service. The budget for this service in 2019 was $1.8 million.

This type of service is not realistic for small towns, Legg said Thursday.

“I think it’s wonderful the town of Catskill can afford an ambulance,” Legg said. “But to sit there and tell us we have to do that...small towns can’t afford that. It would double our budget.”

The town of Hunter has a budget of $2.5 million, Legg said. Catskill’s budget for 2019 was $6.8 million.

Linger disagreed with Luvera’s argument that the towns have not been proactive about the issue, he said.

“In the eight months since we had that meeting, the towns have stepped up,” Linger said. “We moved the car, they have had more ambulances on, the three towns have been discussing a BLS transport ambulance. The response times have not come down. The flycar system is a system that benefits everybody. And they have the right to ask for continued help.”

Handel agreed.

“I don’t think that life on the mountaintop is worth less than a valley life,” she said. “It is a Greene County flycar, not a mountaintop flycar. Catskill chose to do its own system, I don’t think other towns should suffer because Catskill did its own thing.”

Legislator Jim Thorington, R-Windham, said his town has its own ALS ambulance service but also participates in the flycar program.

Don’t borrow money for a jail you can’t justify and these discussions change,