The Lacey Township Committee is considering shelling out $100,000 towards an ambulance for Lacey Township E.M.S.
“The squad appears to be in very, very dire need for an ambulance because one is pretty much un-roadworthy at this time and based on the amount of calls that they have, it could become a major problem to be able to provide the safety to the residents to the hospital,” Mayor Gary Quinn said.
The E.M.S. is looking to purchase a $125,000 ambulance plus $10,000 in customization and agreed to make up the difference if the township pays $100,000.
Quinn, along with the four other committee members, were originally opposed to purchasing any capital requests, including an ambulance for Lacey E.M.S., due to the $3.2 shortfall they are anticipating in the budget.
The ambulance is 15 years old with 140,000 miles on it. Typically an ambulance has a life expectancy of 10 years and the squad pays $10,000 to $15,000 in maintenance on the ambulance per year.
“If that thing breaks on a very important call, that would not be a good situation. I wouldn’t want to be in that ambulance,” said Committeeman David Most, liaison to the emergency services.
If a patient has a back injury, the E.M.S. is unable to use that particular ambulance, Joe Gough said at a budget workshop meeting in April.
“Our volunteers are so dedicated in our town, it’s amazing. They do this as a full-time job, volunteering time. And it really pains me,” said Most. “It’s imperative when someone is in need that we have a reliable vehicle for them because their dedication is just unbelievable.”
In 2009, the squad had 1,900 calls and handled 1,900 patients. In 2010, they handled approximately 2,000 calls, with over 2,100 patients.
“We try to do our best during these times but at the same time I want you to really understand that we really appreciate all your dedication and these decisions are tough to make,” Most said.
Committee members Sean Sharkey, Helen DelaCruz, and Mark Dykoff showed concern because the budget has yet to be completed.
The purchase would be made outside of the budget, as the township would have to bond for the funds. The township would have to provide a five percent down payment and then bond for the remainder.
If the committee chooses a 10-year bond, the township will pay $11,500 per year.
The purchase would not even be a penny on the tax rate, Municipal Clerk Veronica Laureigh said.
Cost comparisons were also made between leasing and buy out programs, and borrowing. Borrowing with 1.5 percent interest came out the cheapest.
If the E.M.S. did a lease, they would have to pay out over $34,000 versus $8,250, Quinn said.
“Public safety is number one. It’s crucial. If the equipment that these folks have is really that dilapidated and unusable, it’s going to be really a poor decision on our part not to take and spend the $11,500…It’s nickels and dimes to the taxpayer,” Quinn said.
Captain Brian Keene said if the township decides not to support the E.M.S. with the new ambulance, they would still look to make the purchase on their own.
“It’s just worn out,” Keene said. “We can’t drop down to two ambulances. We have 3 on the road more and more.”
For the last three to four years, the E.M.S. has been doing fundraisers knowing they would have to purchase a new ambulance in the near future. The EMS has money set aside but cannot put more than the difference towards the ambulance because they would be dipping into their operations fund.
“It’s just tough economic times and we understand that but we’re still volunteer, we’re saving the township taxpayers money,” Keene said.
While the new ambulance could take up to five months to receive, the old ambulance can be included in the township’s auction.
The committee unanimously decided that they would support the E.M.S. in their puchase pending the outcome of the next budget meeting on Thursday, June 2.