A little more than a year ago we were writing about the possible dissolution of the Duanesburg Volunteer Ambulance Corps. That was an unpleasant prospect, but at the time seemed the only way to liberate DVAC from the small clique who had effectively hijacked it.
Fortunately, dissolution turned out not to be necessary, thanks to some good moves on the part of the town. As a result, today we are writing a much happier editorial, about how the corps has stabilized and is coming back. There’s still a way to go, but at least it is no longer on life support.
The clique was led by Capt. Bruce Smith and his wife (former chairwoman of the board of directors), who treated the company like their personal fiefdom. Eventually their actions and attitudes drove away many dedicated volunteers and discouraged others from joining, and DVAC’s active roster shrank to the point where it couldn’t be relied on to answer calls in timely fashion, or at all.
For too long the Town Board watched, reluctant to get involved in the affairs of a private organization. But this is one private organization with a very public mission, and the town was providing around $43,000 a year, roughly one-third of DVAC’s budget.
When the town finally did act, last spring, it did so decisively. It cut off funds for the corps and told state police dispatchers to call emergency crews from Rotterdam or Schenectady instead. This was designed to get the DVAC board to dump the Smiths; but when that didn’t happen, the Smiths being so firmly in control, the town found another way to get rid of them. It required all interested members to sign an active roster — and when the Smiths and some others, in a show of defiance, refused to sign, it used the corps’ own bylaws to force them out.
After that it didn’t take long for people to start coming back, new leadership to emerge, and things to improve. There still aren’t enough volunteers, especially during the day, and sometimes outside agencies have to be called. It is very hard to get volunteer emergency workers these days, which is why we have endorsed Sen. Charles Schumer's bill to provide a $1,000 federal tax credit for such service.
But the crisis last year reminded Duanesburg residents of what they have, and brought DVAC some new, committed members. It could use more.