Fire departments in the region have been struggling for years to find volunteers to man the ambulances and make emergency calls during the day. Wassaic received 206 calls for ambulance service between Jan. 1 and December 8 of 2015 but the Wassaic Fire Department could not respond to 67 of those calls because they had no drivers.
“We had someone die of cardiac arrest because someone could not get there,” explained Jeff Barnet-Winsby, one of the Commissioners of the Wassaic Fire Department, “This became an ethical dilemma.”
The Wassaic Fire Department sent letters and made numerous appeals to the town board of Amenia. Because they felt morally obligated to serve their community, they hired NDP Ambulance service at a cost of $500,000 for 24-hour ambulance service for residents of Amenia and Wassaic. But the cost will result in a 170% tax increase, that will only be borne by Wassaic residents. It will cost the average tax-payer around $80 a month. The service will pay for ambulance transportation to Sharon Hospital or other regional hospitals such as Vassar Brothers Emergency Cardiac Unit.
NDP EMS provides emergency para-medical services to towns in Dutchess and Litchfild counties.
The Wassaic Fire commissioner voted on this decision at the end of October. They held a public hearing and it passed with their 2016 budget on November 4.
Amenia Supervisor Victoria Perotti feels that the department acted unilaterally without reaching out to Amenia or the County. She is now holding monthly meetings with the commissioners from both fire departments in the town along with Dana Smith, Commissioner of Emergency Services of Dutchess County to create an ambulance district. The process will take at least a year.
“No one knew about the public hearing. Other ambulance services should have gotten RFP’s,” explained Perotti, “The Town of Northeast had already contracted with NDP for an $180,000 contract and the service could not make it to calls even if they were contacted.”
Perotti and the two fire departments are now meeting regularly to get everyone onboard, including Dover Plains, to see if they can share a consolidated corridor of coverage. This will bring down the cost, but may not be achieved until 2018.