Ambulance services in Saratoga Springs will likely continue to be provided by the city Fire Department for some time.
The City Council voted Tuesday night to extend the program beyond February 2014, when the two-year trial period of Fire Department ambulance services was scheduled to end. The measure was approved by a 4-1 vote and now the city just needs approval from the state, which it is likely to receive.
Prior to the meeting, the city released its 18-month report on the ambulance service being run by the Fire Department, which began in February 2012. In the period there were 4,284 emergency medical calls, an average of almost nine a day, and almost 88 percent of the calls were handled by the Fire Department.
Providing ambulance services cost the city about $338,000 in personnel and other expenses and generated about $1.1 million in revenue, according to the report.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said before Tuesday’s meeting that ambulance service has improved since the Fire Department took over from Saratoga Emergency Medical Services. “Everything is run better,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed during the meeting by Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, who noted that it has also raised a lot of revenue. “The ambulance program has been a huge success,” she said.
Also supporting the extension was Accounts Commissioner John Franck, who described himself as skeptical of the program when it began. Based on the 18-month review and anecdotal evidence, he said, “It far exceeded what I thought it was going to do.”
Mathiesen, Madigan and Franck are Democrats. Public Works Commissioner Skip Scirocco, a Republican, said he still likes the program, and noted he initially supported it, too.
The lone opposition vote Tuesday was from Mayor Scott Johnson, a Republican, who said he opposed the extension as a matter of consistency, as he initially was against the program. The statement about consistency generated some good-natured ribbing from Madigan, who said, “Come on mayor.”
According to Mathiesen the ambulance service ends up being a major net positive for the city’s finances, with only a comparatively small increase in expenses related to the service. “Revenue far exceeds operating expenses,” he said before Tuesday’s meeting.