Shandaken mulls larger ambulance fleet

By Jay Braman Jr.
It’s large a rural town with a large elderly population, far from any hospital, and home to a ski center that brings thousands of visitors across its borders on winter weekends. Such is Shandaken, a town said to already possess a cracker jack ambulance department, but one that would serve the community better if it had another ambulance.
That’s according to Squad Captain Richard Muellerieile, who has been working to convince the town board that purchasing another ambulance is not only a way to provide better emergency coverage but also a move that is financially prudent.
On Monday Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani said the board has gone as far as requesting bids for the extra ambulance, which would bring the fleet to a total of three, not including the “fly cars” used by paramedics to get to the scene of an accident faster.
At 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7 at town hall, DiSclafani said, the board will discuss the purchase, which could cost $60,000-plus, and try and figure out how to pay for it.
The problem is the expense was not figured into the 2009 budget. Making matters more complex is that, according to Muellerieile, federal regulations that go into effect on January 1 will force the Ford Motor Company to stop production on the fuel-efficient diesel engine currently available and instead use a less efficient V-10 gasoline engine.
“Considering the high mileage put on ambulance vehicles in the town…this would be a staggering cost increase,” said Muellerieile in a letter to the town board.
One payment method under consideration is to just take the money out the town’s Good Neighbor Fund,” a capital account with over $500,000 in it supplied by the City of New York as a part of the 1997 watershed deal. While many towns in the region depleted their respective Good Neighbor Funds, Shandaken has held onto it, but DiSclafani notes that interest rates are so low that the fund is not making any money.
“It may make sense to use Good Neighbor money for this,” he said.
But Councilman Rob Stanley, who is also the town’s supervisor elect after defeating DiSclafani at the polls last month, is not so sure.
Stanley has asked the town’s accountant to prepare some information about bonding for the purchase to see whether that is a better way to go. That information will be presented at the meeting on Monday.
Jack Jordan, who was elected last month to become a councilman in January, said Monday that he wants to see if leasing a third ambulance is a better way to go.
Then there is always the possibility that the town board could simply decide not to buy a third ambulance.