County legislator objects to loose contract for Allegany ambulance services

County Treasurer Terri Ross presents a proposal to the Board of Legislators Ways and Means Committee this afternoon on using federal American Rescue Plan funds for a $600,000 supplemental medical services contract. Medical Transport Service owner Dan Marsh watches the proceedings at left in background. (Allegany County livestream photo)

BREAKING: The Allegany County, NY, Board of Legislators has approved an agreement for up to $600,000 with a Scio company to provide county-wide ambulance services despite an admonition today from one of its members that he has “never seen a contract so easy” and that it should be “tightened up.”

Legislator John Ricci of Cuba, along with Adam Cyr of Bolivar, voted against approving the agreement with Medical Transport Service (MTS), which was adopted 11-2-2 with Legislators Dwight (Mike) Healy of Belmont and James Rumfelt of Andover absent.

The Board action, which later included appropriating funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to pay for the project, continued a secrecy as to what type of services and the conditions under which they are being provided and why which Allegany Hope has been reporting on for the past week.

Earlier in the afternoon, the Board’s Ways and Means Committee went into an unexpected executive session for the purpose of “discussing real estate transaction (sic),” which Ricci may have been referring to during the regular legislative meeting.

Federal Funds Use
The use of ARPA funds only popped into the picture mid-morning today when a Memorandum of Explanation was made public. An updated agenda changed a resolution to simply transfer funds for the MTS initiative which had been included yesterday in the Ways and Means Committee package for this afternoon, to the ARPA designation.

Ricci told the committee that he couldn’t agree to the federal funding use resolution when it was joined to the one approving the services agreement.

He subsequently responded to an Allegany Hope Community News query that the proposed agreement was more like a Memorandum of Understanding than a contract.

At the subsequent Board meeting, Ricci said that he had just received the proposed contract yesterday but “it wouldn’t have mattered if I read it a week ago.

“I don’t like this contract,” he said, noting that “I’ve had a few small businesses myself that I had to borrow for. I’ve bought a lot of vehicles and a lot of houses and I have never seen a contract that was so easy.

“I’d like to see this stiffened up a little bit and I can’t live with it as it is,” he said, saying that although “I really do want to be a ‘yes’ …. it’s taxpayer money, we need to look out for them.”

Committee Chair Brooke Harris of Alfred disagreed, saying “I do admire the contract for being concise and I appreciate the language within the contract that provides the county an out in event that we aren’t satisfied with the outcome of the agreement.”

Legislator Steve Havey of Wellsville said he feels the resolution is “important to stabilize medical services in Allegany County,” with Dwight Fanton, also of Wellsville saying he would be voting for the agreement because federal funds are being used to pay for it.

Allegany Hope Community News had noted the vagueness of the contract in our report last night as it relates to state enabling legislation.

Services and Business Purchase
Details of what has been happening during the past week with executive sessions, thinly worded statements by County Administrator Carissa Knapp and County Attorney Allison Carrow, and piecing together bits and pieces from various county documents as to a possible county purchase of the business have started to emerge.

These include the up to $600,000 services package being described today as “securing a right of first refusal to purchase the business known as MTS, should it go up for sale within the next six months.”

Allegany Hope also talked with MTS owner Dan Marsh today who explained his current situation of trying to sell his business during the past year and a half, which hasn’t been able to occur due to a prospective buyer being unable to proceed, but said that Knapp had asked him not to discuss publicly any negotiations with the county for a purchase.

He did say that he has been in the business for 43 years and is looking to retire, but would like to see the company being able to continue serving Allegany County residents.

MTS has seven ambulances, three paramedic vehicles and 47 employees which are stationed 24/7 around the county, serving as both backup if local volunteer emergency services units aren’t able to respond and the primary ambulance provider in some towns. The company also provides transfers out of the hospital.

The firm handled 3,600 calls last year and expects to reach 4,000 this year, Marsh said, noting that it had 60 this past weekend alone.

He said that 80 percent of transports involve Medicare and Medicaid patients, with the cost of providing services many times not being covered by reimbursement rates.

It requires “careful management,” the owner said, to break even and make a profit under such conditions.

The new agreement with the county provides funds to help maintain current services for its residents, he said.

The county will be billed based on services provided at a cost not to exceed $600,000 for a six months period which started last Wednesday.

A copy of the agreement appears with our story last night.

County documents request
Allegany Hope Community News filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the county last week, seeking all documents related to any services proposals but County Attorney Allison Carrow responded that it may be November 2, or over three more weeks, before the county can determine whether requested records exist.

In today’s last minute resolution for ARPA funding, however, it noted that “an agreement was submitted to the County Board of Legislators by Medical Transport Service, Inc., …. where MTS provides supplemental medical services to the residents of Allegany County …”
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