Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services Inc. will serve as the town’s primary ambulance provider for the next two years.
Short one member and with another recusing himself from the vote, the Town Board opted to give a two-year contract to the nonprofit company instead of the for-profit Mohawk Ambulance service. In explaining his support for REMS, Supervisor Frank Del Gallo said the company’s proposal to the town included a cost for residents to use their service that was lower than Mohawk’s.
“They are going to get charged less from REMS than Mohawk — that was probably the deciding factor,” he said following the vote Wednesday.
In winning the contract, REMS will continue as the town’s main ambulance service until 2012. The company also agreed to bill patients or insurance companies when the town-funded paramedic service provides advanced life support assistance and forward the funds to Rotterdam free of charge.
Deputy Supervisor Robert Godlewski said the bidding for and awarding of the contract should be a precedent for future boards. He said the board, under Del Gallo’s leadership, tried to remove politics from the decision and instead focused on what was best for residents.
“It was a fair and open process,” he said. “And that’s the way it should be.”
Board members also approved a resolution allowing Del Gallo to negotiate a repayment settlement for past advanced life support fees collected by REMS but not forwarded to the town. Del Gallo remained confident that an amicable settlement can be reached with the company without having to resort to litigation.
“I don’t want any litigation,” he said. “Nobody wins then.”
Joe VanDerwerker, the chairman of REMS’ board of directors, declined to comment on the vote.
Peter Brodie, a spokesman for REMS, said the company will work to resolve any outstanding issues with the town. In the end, he said, REMS’ proposal simply offered a greater upside for the town.
“When it’s all said and done, it didn’t come as much of a surprise,” he said. “There has never been a question about the quality of care they provide.”
Mohawk Vice President James McPartlon expressed dismay over the vote but said the decision ultimately rested with the town. He wasn’t sure whether the Schenectady-based company will approach the town with a new proposal once the newly approved contract expires.
“We’ll have to see what happens,” he said.
Mohawk spokesman Tom Nardacci also expressed disappointment with the vote. He said Mohawk’s proposal would have provided a greater benefit for the town.
“We put forward a tremendous proposal that would have benefitted the taxpayers of Rotterdam and ensured top-notch service and care,” he said.
Board member Nicola DiLeva had a prior engagement during the meeting and was not present during the vote. Board member Wayne Calder recused himself from the vote, saying his son-in-law’s employment with Mohawk posed a conflict of interest.
The decision brings to a close the latest saga between the only two ambulance services allowed to operate in Rotterdam. Mohawk has periodically courted town officials with proposals since the financially strapped White Eagle Ambulance and Rotterdam Volunteer Emergency Medical Corps began suffering a shortage of volunteers during the late 1990s.
In 2003, Mohawk offered to service Rotterdam free, provided the town agreed to disband both volunteer ambulance companies. The town instead decided to help the volunteer companies merge, and they became REMS later that year.
The merged entity started talking about setting up a tax district to support the newly formed company the following year. But the issue of a tax proved highly contentious and failed to advance for nearly five years.
In 2008, the IRS had imposed tax liens against REMS totaling nearly $250,000. The company has since worked out a payment agreement that more than halved this debt. Town officials then agreed to subsidize the company on a monthly basis, despite renewed overtures from Mohawk.
Subsidies for REMS were eliminated under Del Gallo’s administration last year, and the issue of establishing a tax district was finally put up to a referendum. Voters resoundingly defeated the tax district, leaving REMS without a subsidy.
Company officials have since indicated that they can maintain operations and a high quality of care without the subsidy, which was a message renewed by Brodie following the board’s decision Wednesday.
“Absolutely,” he said, when asked if the company could remain financially viable without town aid. “We’re now operating as a business.”