Some Allegany County legislators against being in the ambulance business

County Legislators Gretchen Hanchett of Belmont, John Ricci of Cuba, and Dwight (Mike) Healy of Belmont, from left, listen to Legislative District II resident concerns over ambulance services during a meeting last week in Friendship. In foreground is Town Councilman Steve Ritter.

EXCLUSIVE: At least three Allegany County, NY, legislators say they aren’t in favor of the county taking over the Medical Transport Service (MTS) ambulance business, indicating they want to see another solution after receiving short notice and one of them voting against an up to six months contract to purchase services from the Scio company.

District II representatives Gretchen Hanchett and Dwight (Mike) Healy of Belmont and John Ricci of Cuba provided a few more pieces of information last week in regard to an October 12 Board of Legislators action to spend up to $600,000 over a half-year period “while the (county and MTS) parties enter discussions regarding the possibility of the County assuming ambulance operations.”

Discussion came during a public district meeting with legislators at Friendship, kicked off when Town Councilman Steve Ritter asked about the county’s actions this month, saying he was “concerned about bigger government” and “who will pay?”

Ricci, along with Legislator Adam Cyr of Bolivar, had voted against the services proposal, with Healy and Legislator James Rumfelt of Andover being absent.

The Cuba lawmaker said at the county board meeting that he had “never seen a contract so easy” and that it should be “tightened up.”

County information lacking
Details about the discussions have been sparse, with Country Attorney Allison Carrow, in response to an Allegany Hope Community News Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for documents related to any services proposals, saying it would be next Wednesday, four weeks after our request, before the county can determine whether any documents exist.

She and County Administrator Carissa Knapp, in the meantime, have issued thinly-worded public statements as to what is happening.

Hanchett, in reply to the Town Council member’s question, said the Board had been given a “short time” to make a decision on the $600,000 interim proposal, with legislators being “backed up against the wall” to “make sure people are protected.”

No indication has been given for the rush to secure services, other than MTS owner Dan Marsh telling Allegany Hope Community News that his business has been on the market for approximately a year-and-a-half and that an assumed buyer is unable to proceed with the transaction.

More facts needed
Hanchett said “we don’t know all our facts” at this time and the Board has to do “our due diligence” in determining the best course of action.

Ricci, who also is a member of the Allegany County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), told the Friendship gathering, comprised primarily of Town Board members, that there is “no way” he wants the county owning the business and that he would like to see another buyer.

He also offered a thought of one county employee being hired to coordinate emergency medical services, including current volunteer unit efforts, throughout the county.

Temporary fix suggested
Healy said the current situation is a “temporary fix,” saying he hopes the county can come up with a “good system, possibly a hybrid” to a problem, something the county hasn’t yet fully described to the public.

Concern was expressed in regard to the current volunteer units, insurance billing issues, and other components which are faced by both paid and volunteer providers, along with the potential of a large company coming in and pushing out the volunteers.

Ritter noted there are “lots of questions to be answered on this,” saying he would “like to come and ask some of these.”
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