As Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services and the town move closer to inking a contract, talk has emerged of strengthening communication between the two once an agreement is reached.
That could be done by reviving the emergency medical review board, which could serve as a liaison between REMS and the town, former Town Board member Bob Godlewski said at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.
“I would suggest that after you sign that contract that you make an effort to set up a schedule where these types of issues can be resolved without writing letters or going to The Gazette,” said Godlewski, a Democrat who served on the Town Board up until this year.
The idea gained traction on a night when Town Supervisor Harry Buffardi, a Democrat who voted against awarding the contract to the nonprofit REMS over the for-profit Mohawk Ambulance in December, said the two sides were “very close” to reaching an agreement after going four months without a contract.
Buffardi said the contract negotiations intensified after the town sent REMS a revised contract and did not hear back from REMS for “months.” Buffardi, in a March 28 letter to REMS, said that absent a contract, the town could rescind the board’s narrow approval of REMS as its ambulance service provider. Dean Romano, REMS’ director of operations, argued that REMS hadn’t signed the contract because it was drastically altered by the town to include, among other things, requirements for additional reporting and disclosure of employee drug and alcohol tests.
“I think we’re at a point where we’re beginning to get beyond that and develop good communications, and I think the ability to have a contract will certainly identify that,” Buffardi said. “I certainly think that providing an emergency medical review board is part of that communication process.”
Buffardi tried to implement such a board about 11⁄2 years ago after one had existed several years before. But after only a few meetings, it ceased to carry on through some heated debates last year over how ambulance services would be provided to the town.
“We had plans already to restart this committee as soon as possible,” Deputy Supervisor Wayne Calder said.
Calder, a Democrat, said the town should wait to form the board until the Unified Communications Center, a consolidation of the county’s dispatchers, opens next month so that the dispatch center can be represented.
The 10-member board consisted of representatives from the Town Board, REMS, the police and fire departments and the community. Republican Town Board member Joe Villano recommended the town reach out to those representatives to see if they’d be interested in serving again. One of those people, REMS’ board of directors President Nancy Casso, said she would be.
“It’s an awesome avenue for all of the emergency services in the town of Rotterdam to work collaboratively,” she said.
Buffardi said those who are still interested could be reappointed but that the board could also use some “fresh blood.”
“Because we certainly had a substantive change in how we deliver emergency medical services in Rotterdam,” he said, referring to paramedic services now being provided by REMS rather than the town.
Villano said he would like to chair the board, “since at this point we haven’t done any committee assignments yet.”
“We’re always looking for volunteers, so we appreciate that,” Buffardi responded.
As for the ongoing contract negotiations, Buffardi provided REMS with a further revised contract just before Wednesday’s meeting.
“We think we’ve worked out the language changes that are appropriate for both sides,” Buffardi said.
On Thursday, however, Romano said much of the language REMS previously objected to was still there. But he said he would send the town a response within two weeks.
“The majority of the language that I found was unacceptable, they wanted to put back in there,” he said. “However, I think we just have to have a good conversation about what it is they’re trying to accomplish with this language, and I think the language can be changed to meet both parties’ liking.”