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Utica Fire Department Ambulance Transportation Service In Limbo

Common Council Members Discuss EMS Service
Jeanette Lenoir, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) - A decision to keep the city’s Fire Department Ambulance Service operating is about two weeks away and officials are scrambling to put together critical reports, which includes an independent financial audit, in an effort to build their case for or against keeping the service. 

Members of the Common Council met today to start the analysis process. At-Large Councilman Jerry Kraus who called for an independent audit last week says progress is being made. “We have to sit and look at these numbers. It’s a good start for us to actually start doing analysis so now we can make informed decisions as to what the revenues are, what the expenses are, how they’re broken down and we have received a pretty in-depth report from the comptroller’s office,” he said.

Kraus says members of the common council are still waiting to get an official audit from the independent auditors. As it stands today, the Fire Department’s Ambulance Service is operating on a temporary Certificate of Need pending a judge’s ruling on allowing the continuation of its transportation service.

City Comptroller, Michael Cerminaro provided a financial snap shot of the EMT financial operation, which indicates that the service amounts to $756,887.73 in revenue for the city. Kraus says another big concern is the revenue forecast for the current fiscal year, which includes the money coming in from the ambulance service. He said, “With that point alone we’re hoping that it continues so we don’t have a big hole to fill as far as revenue for the City of Utica.” In the meantime a decision to keep the Fire Department’s Ambulance Service operating as it currently does, is only weeks away.

One clarification Cerminaro made is that the Fire Department will still provide emergency care to residents however, if they lose their license following the judges ruling, they will no longer be able to transport patients to the hospital–a service that was started in 2005, which became a point of contention for the city’s other ambulance service provider; Kunkel Ambulance. Before 2005, fire officials responding to the scene of an emergency provided stabilization care to a patient(s) and Kunkel Ambulance transported the patient(s)–unless Kunkel arrived on the scene before fire department emergency officials.

The FY2011 reported revenue from the ambulance service provided by Cerminaro is $1,742,487.65. The expenses are listed as $985,599.92. There’s also the Saver Grant that the fire department received in April. “It will basically pay for the salary and benefits of a number of fire fighters. That is only going to last for a few years however, there are other savings that go along with that as well, and can be quite substantial and we’re hoping that even in this year’s budget, if revenues don’t come in on other ends of the budget, the savings from the Saver Grant will help the city budget out but the loss of the revenue–the $1.8 million dollars that is in this year’s budget–that’s substantial to lose, so we’re putting the council and the administration on notice that we’re very early on our budget so now would be the time to make adjustments if we need to,” Cerminaro said.

The date officials are waiting for is July 15. That’s when they will learn the fate of the city’s ambulance transportation service.

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