CATSKILL — Tensions ran high Wednesday as county and town officials debated methods of providing advanced life support services to residents.
The town of Catskill decided to withdraw from Greene County’s flycar system several years ago, but continues to contribute to the service financially. Town Supervisor Dale Finch made his case at a workshop meeting as to why he thinks town residents should not have to pay for the service.
“We pay $225,217 and we get zero service,” he said. “If we get additional service, we pay $520 a call.”
Greene County Emergency Medical Services President Mark Evans presented what it would cost to return a flycar to Catskill. One flycar would cost $437,000, Evans said.
Flycars are operated by paramedics that provide advanced life support but do not transport patients. Ambulances crews can provide basic life support and transport patients. Some municipalities, such as Catskill, also have advanced life support services through their ambulance service. Finch argued that it would be more effective to upgrade EMTs to administer advanced life support than to contract with Greene EMS.
The town has to have EMTs for its ambulance regardless, he said.
“The advantage was, why not upgrade that EMT to a paramedic?” he said.
Finch said the cost to have two crews upgraded to ALS status would cost $174,000 — a savings of $589,000 from the proposed flycar.
“If you want you can go back to your constituents and tell them you’re going to charge more money for a service we already do equally as well, if not better, because we transport patients,” Finch said.
Evans said that Finch’s numbers were not comparable.
“That’s the hard part trying to compare a medic flycar to an ambulance,” he said. “It’s very hard to compare apples to apples.”
Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden agreed.
“You can’t say your system costs $174,000,” he said.
“I’m not saying that,” Finch replied.
“Yes, you are,” Groden countered.
Finch reiterated that the $174,000 represented the cost to upgrade the system from EMT to ALS.
“You’re not including the $255,000 the town of Catskill residents pay in county taxes,” Linger said. “So you’re $174,000 but still paying $255,000 on the county side. It’s not the decision of this board [the Legislature] to not utilize that $255,000.”
“If you want to go back to your constituents and tell them we’re going to charge more money because we don’t want to entertain it, that’s fine,” Finch said.
Linger said he was confused about the purpose of the meeting.
“What is it you’re coming in for?” he asked. “I’m a little bit confused.”
“I’m coming in here because Catskill is paying, subsidizing the rest of the county, subsidizing your service, and our Catskill residents are getting nothing,” Finch said. “That’s not that hard to figure out. Do you pay for things you don’t use?”
Evans noted that several towns have their own police departments but residents still pay for the sheriff’s office.
“That’s not how this system is set up,” Finch said.
“It’s exactly the same, actually,” Linger said. “It’s the same county tax rate.”
The town uses the sheriff’s office, Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, said.
“They use all of the other county services besides ALS and when we use it, we pay for that,” he said, referring to the $520 mutual aid charge.
Legislator Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, said it would be the town’s decision.
“I don’t think it’s our decision to tell the town board what they need to do with their ambulance,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is, we’re paying for Greene EMS through county taxes already and we’re not receiving it,” Luvera said.