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BETTER THAN HEARSAY - Trouble in Ambulance Paradise

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 4/12/24 | 4/12/24

By Michael Ryan

PRATTSVILLE - They did it kicking and screaming, even as Prattsville town officials have agreed to pay what was overdue on their ambulance contract with the neighboring town of Ashland.

Ashland, in recent years, has provided primary ambulance response for Prattsville as well as the town of Lexington, charging a percentage of annual operation costs based on call volume for each municipality.

Prattsville is responsible for 40 percent of the bill with Lexington and Ashland responsible for 30 percent apiece.

Satisfaction with Ashland’s service has been expressed by both Lexington and Prattsville but mistrust is being voiced by Prattsville government leaders related to the most recent pact.

A series of letters and emails have been exchanged between Prattsville town supervisor Greg Cross and Ashland town supervisor Richard Tompkins over the past few months.

The tone of those correspondences became much less neighborly during that period as Cross attempted to renegotiate the deal, hoping to make things less burdensome for his taxpayers.

Prattsville was three months behind in its payments when Tompkins sent a letter to Cross, essentially saying the dough had to arrive or else.

Actually, there was nothing “essentially” about it and Cross, at a meeting this past Monday night, read the contents of that letter to the public.

Cross shared the missive as Cross and councilwoman Joyce Peckham essentially raked Tompkins over the coals for what they claimed was Tompkins dealing in bad faith.

Actually, there was nothing “essentially” about it and while the council agreed to pay the $72,596.95 owed, it was a close 3 to 2 vote.

Cross voted against it although there seem to be few if any alternatives for Prattsville, given the fact they do not have their own rescue service and that the expense of doing so would be financially ruinous.

So while Prattsville ended the financial standoff, stuff was said out loud about Tompkins that crossed a journalistic line, in terms of accusations made without substantiation.

They won’t be printed here but they had mostly to do with Ashland’s budget numbers that Cross claimed were inconsistent, and his suspicions about the transparency of Ashland’s bookkeeping.

Cross claimed this and that was askew, without substantiation, and claimed Prattsville wasn’t a partner in the agreement with Ashland anymore, but was, rather, “being held hostage” by Ashland.

The business relationship between Prattsville and Ashland will be what it is but some of what was exchanged between the two supervisors is print worthy and was publicized in Prattsville, this past Monday night.

I’d heard about it thru my usual grapevine and also from Greene County officials who were keeping a close eye on the situation, knowing a split between Prattsville and Ashland would not be good for anyone.

If Ashland had, as threatened, stopped responding to calls in Prattsville, it would have put a tremendous strain on an already fragile system.

Lines got drawn in the sand in mid-March. Prattsville sent a list of demands to Ashland, through their attorney in an email, wanting a change in the agreement before re-upping, even while getting service.

“Prattsville’s town board voted against signing the proposed agreement in its current form,” the email stated.

“To enter into an agreement without the ambulance district being formed, Prattsville requires the addition of the following terms,” the email stated, 

(The district referred to is in the formative stages, an effort being led by Tompkins to establish a partnership between Ashland, Lexington and Prattsville similar to existing volunteer firefighting districts.

(New York State is reportedly the wrench in the gears in getting that district formed, an issue that could finally be resolved when a new State budget becomes signed, sealed and delivered, supposedly this week).

The email continued, “Prattsville will be responsible for 1/3 of the total ambulance cost as Prattsville’ s total interest in the ambulance, once it belongs to the District, will be [one-third].

“Payment for this item should reflect this interest. Prattsville will only pay for 1/3 of the total unreimbursed, out of district calls as was discussed and agreed to at the meeting held on February 29, 2024.

“Prattsville should not have to pay for 40% of calls outside the proposed district. Prattsville requests clarity on the $30,000  “Interfund Transfer” that has been budgeted. Where does this money get transferred to?

“Prattsville’s share (40%) of all yearly excess money is to come back to Prattsville each year the Ambulance District is not formed. It would be inappropriate for Prattville’s tax money to be held in Ashland’s accounts for an unformed district.

“Prattsville requires a monthly reconciliation and breakdown of all ambulance money spent and calls made to ensure their tax money is being properly spent and allocated,” the email stated.

“If Ashland does not agree to these terms, Prattsville proposes the towns revert to the prior arrangement which had Prattsville pay per call with a one-time yearly fee until such time as the Ambulance District is formed.

“Please know, Prattsville’ s ultimate goal is to form the Ambulance District and we are hopeful that creating a fair and transparent relationship now will allow for a smooth transition into the District in the near future.”

The town of Ashland, through their attorney, responded with a letter stating, “please be advised that the town board…does not accept the terms offered in your previous letter with regard to a different split of the costs for the 2024 ambulance contract.  

“We have previously sent you a contract with the split for ALL costs to be set at 40% Prattsville, 30% Lexington and 30% Ashland. 

“Ashland expects that it will receive from Prattsville the executed contract and a check in the amount of $72,596.95, representing Prattville’s first installment due under that contract.

“Since this payment is now almost 2 months overdue, demand is hereby made for payment of same within five (5) days of this letter.

“Failure on the part of the Town of Prattsville to remit payment and the executed contract within that period, will result in the immediate suspension of ambulance service to the Town of Prattsville.  

“The Town of Ashland regrets that this process has gotten to this stage, however, Ashland will no longer provide free ambulance service to your Town,” the letter stated, setting a deadline of April 3.

Cross asked for a deadline extension so the Prattsville council could meet again, doing so on April 8, with payment now expected this week.

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