GREENVILLE — The town board declined Monday to adopt a resolution that would have permitted the Greenville Rescue Squad to receive immunity from the usual approval process for a new ambulance building.
The rescue squad, a nonprofit organization that contracts with the town, is looking to purchase 2.16 acres on Route 81 from the Greenville fire district and to build two buildings on the property — an 80-foot-by-80-foot multi-bay garage and a house where the crew’s quarters would be.
On the advice of town attorney Tal Rappleyea, the squad went before the board in June asking to be granted the Monroe County Immunity Analysis, which was established through a court precedent in 1988, according to the New York state Department of State. If approved, the rescue squad would not have been required to go before the planning board for approval of the rescue squad’s subdivision application and site plan review, Rappleyea said.
Town Councilman Richard Bear said at Monday’s meeting of the town council that community members have approached him asking for more information. He asked whether the squad owns the property at this time.
“We are in the process of the sale right now,” Ted Nugent, chairman of Greenville Rescue Squad, Inc., responded. “We were waiting for a decision on this resolution.” Town Councilman Joel Rauf asked if the property purchase would be covered through funds the squad has on hand and not borrowed money.
Nugent confirmed the organization has the money to buy the land. The property costs about $5,000 per acre for a total of just over $10,000, and the cost of the two buildings is expected to be roughly $500,000 to $600,000, and would be financed through a 30-year mortgage, Nugent said in June.
The Greenville Rescue Squad is in the second year of a three-year contract with the town and is a nonprofit organization, Nugent said.
“If that is the case, it looks like you wouldn’t be eligible for the zoning exemption because that has nothing to do with the town,” Town Councilman John Bensen said.
The Monroe County Immunity Analysis requires that eligible organizations must be operated by the town.
Nugent pointed out that the request for immunity came at the advice of the town attorney.
“To be clear, we did not request for the board to change anything. We were not trying to circumvent any kind of zoning,” Nugent said.
Bear said the rescue squad is not eligible for the immunity agreement.
“They don’t fit the criteria,” Bear said.
Rappleyea said it was worth pursuing the option to save the squad money.
“It was my recommendation to come to this board to see if there was a way that they could save money because going to the planning board and doing the full-blown subdivision application and doing a full-blown site plan review is expensive,” Rappleyea said. “If there is a way to save some money for the rescue squad, I figured it would be worth a try.”
Resident Barbara Walter, speaking from the audience, said some in the town wanted more transparency in the process.
Nugent responded that the squad’s financial information is provided to the town and is available online.
According to the contract, the rescue squad was paid $383,664 by the town in 2020, the first year of the contract. That figure rose to $393,639 in 2021 and $403,874 in 2022, the final year of the three-year contract.
“In the first years of the contract with the town, the contract never even came anywhere near covering payroll for the ambulance,” Nugent said. “This current year it is just covering payroll.”
The squad has been fiscally responsible in saving money to pay for ambulances and other purchases, Nugent said.
An individual in the audience challenged Nugent.
“You are saying an 80x80 building for the Greenville Rescue Squad is fiscally responsible?” the resident asked. “Are you saying 6,400 square feet is fiscally responsible for a rescue squad?”
Nugent responded that the garage would provide space for two ambulances, a fly car — a paramedic response unit — rooms for equipment storage, a decontamination bathroom and shower and room for expansion in the future.
The second building would provide space for a male and female bunkroom, office for the chief, a room for paramedics and a dayroom and kitchen for crew members on call overnight, Nugent said.
Another audience member asked why the rescue squad needed to move at all.
The squad is currently housed in a building that dates to the 1700s and stores one ambulance at another site, at the Norton Hill firehouse.
“The crew has to get in their car, in the middle of winter, drive to the firehouse, get the ambulance out and get everything going and on the way to the call,” Nugent said. “Those few minutes are life and death.”
Nugent said the squad contracts with the town and no other vendor is questioned in such a manner.
“We contract with the town board to provide the town with a service,” he said. “You don’t have your oil company in here explaining how they have their oil trucks on the road. You don’t have your parts distributors in here being questioned by the taxpayers on how they will deliver parts to you or what color the trucks will be.”
Bensen said there is a difference.
“The biggest difference between what you are talking about and what you do is we are subsidizing you,” Bensen said, referrring to the contract with the town.
In addition to the town contract, the squad also bills insurance companies for each call they respond to.
Macko said the town board can discuss the terms of the contract when it is renewed in 2022. The squad does a good job, Macko added.
After the meeting, Walter said there is concern in the town about the building project.
“There is a lot of discussion in the community about what are the rescue squad’s plans and it seemed to be a very large dollar figure and it raised a lot of questions and we are asking for more detail,” Walter said. “People also got a little taken aback about the proposal not going to the planning board, which meant not having open meetings about it.”
The project is expected to go before the planning board at its Aug. 4 meeting, where it will go through the regular review process.