(Town of Lebanon, Randallsville, NY- April 2013) Lebanon town board members authorized Supervisor Jim Goldstein and attorney Steven Jones to enter into negotiations with Delta Engineering for the purpose of entering a contract to develop a road use law.
Lebanon officials also took comment from concerned members of the Georgetown ambulance squad and the Eaton Fire Department on a proposal by the Southern Madison County Ambulance Corps to have a town-wide referendum in Lebanon on making SOMAC a fully paid service funded by an ambulance district.
Town officials also took public comment on the town proposed road repair plan for 2013 and how to make use of the infusion of additional state Consolidated Highway Improvement Funds from the state budget that will allow the town to consider more road and bridge work in 2013.
Lebanon hopes to join with a regional coalition of other towns to negotiate a lower road use law consultation fee agreement and presently, Hamilton and Brookfield have expressed intent to pursue this type of road use law; Madison and Eaton officials are evaluating the proposal.
Neighboring Chenango County towns of Smyrna and Sherburne have also been present at some of the discussions on the proposed agreement. Goldstein said the town will work with other local governments to negotiate the most cost-effective and thorough agreement, but final approval is up to the town boards of each town.
Costs are anticipated at $7,900 for the entire program, with payments broken down over two years. Town officials want to make sure that the program will be set up to cover all potential heavy road impacts, with methods of passing costs on to heavy road users who require permits and to ensure that all Lebanon roads are properly surveyed and repaired by high-impact haulers or developers, not property taxpayers.
Lebanon town officials heard critiques of the SOMAC proposal that was brought forward by Hamilton Mayor Margaret Miller at the March 11 meeting. Gerilee Rodda, captain of the Georgetown Emergency Squad, and Rick Stoddard, Eaton Fire Chief, were highly critical of the proposal and reported that there had been no communication between SOMAC and their respective squads/ambulance service about a proposal to consolidate ambulance service under a new paid SOMAC service.
They said SOMAC is having trouble with some response time as it is, as well as financial problems.
They, town resident John Gale and other ambulance corps members including Georgetown council member Matt Van Heusen voiced strong and vehement opposition to the SOMAC proposal, noting that their services had adequate volunteers, were more cost-effective and had much better response time for the parts of Lebanon they serve.
Goldstein said the town board listened to the SOMAC proposal last month but has made no decision to host a referendum and noted that the first concern was response time and public safety; there were also concerns about oversight of a SOMAC ambulance district, as well as the rising costs of a paid service.
Goldstein also said he felt the referendum was a “fait accompli” for SOMAC because a majority of town residents live in the Earlville and Randallsville areas where SOMAC provides service, so the vote would be a “done deal.” He said he would be concerned about SOMAC’s ability to respond to the areas of the township already better served by Eaton and Georgetown.
He also noted that the town board commissioned a committee to study fire and ambulance district boundaries a few years ago in the township. The committee met with all the departments and the conclusion was, after reviewing a history of response times, the committee recommended the boundaries remain as-is.
Goldstein said a proposal to vote on whether to permit SOMAC to form an ambulance district for the areas they currently serve might be a more appropriate direction to fund a paid service but that residents have voiced concerns at this meeting and in the past about SOMAC management, finances and morale due to the loss of volunteers in the past.
Town board members unanimously approved a resolution to continue a memorandum of understanding with Georgetown to provide ambulance service to that portion of the township at a cost of $4,400. Town officials are still working with Georgetown, Nelson and the state Public Health Department to resolve the issues related to an operating permit in the Georgetown Fire Protection Contract Area so the Georgetown emergency squad can bill Medicaid for ambulance visits like other department.
Local ambulance officials said that the irony of all of this is that if they assist with mutual aid or cover for another ambulance service that cannot respond quickly enough to a call, they are eligible to be reimbursed.
SOMAC officials have asked the town to consider a town-wide referendum on creating one single ambulance district with Hamilton, arguing that they would be offering paid EMTs to service calls. Concerns voiced at the meeting by Eaton and Georgetown fire and ambulance officials was response time and the claim that SOMAC uses the town of Madison service as its chief backup, and that this would delay response even more.
They also note that they all provide mutual aid to one another so that town residents can get the most rapid response.
Lebanon has four fire contract service areas – Hamilton, Earlville, Eaton and Georgetown, and three ambulance contract areas – Georgetown, Eaton and SOMAC, which cover Hamilton and Earlville.
There have been discussions about creating regional paid ambulance services in Madison County to make up for the loss of volunteers as the volunteer population ages out or is impacted negatively by the growing number of Madison County residents who work outside their communities. SOMAC increased from a long standing $2,400 to $3,200 this year while Georgetown and Eaton have remained fairly flat the last few years.
The next regular meeting of the Lebanon Town Council is Monday, May 13, at the Town Office at 7:30 p.m.