BURKE –– A public hearing on the proposal to establish a multimunicipality ambulance district drew only one member of the public the Village Board meeting on Wednesday.
And that attendee’s contribution to the hearing was, “Go for it.”
“Whatever we can do to help you,” responded Mayor Craig Dumas.
The attendee, Burke Town Supervisor Bill Wood, has said he had some questions about the proposal, but his Town Board voted unanimously in May to create a townwide ambulance district –– the first step in establishing a district that would serve the town and village of Burke, the town and village of Chateaugay, and the northern portion of the town of Bellmont.
The town boards in both Chateaugay and Bellmont have also approved the creation of ambulance districts in their communities. Those three districts would merge to create the joint district.
The two villages would be covered by the districts in their respective towns.
Among the questions officials in several of the municipalities have raised is the cost of creating the combined service –– and what it will mean to their respective taxpayers. An earlier estimate of the total start-up costs pegged them at $460,000, but Wood said an email from Burke Fire Department President Rob Demarse - who is also an EMT - put the start-up figure at $537,000, with an annual operating cost of $512,000 once the district was up and running.
Those figures do not include vehicle replacement and maintenance costs, he noted.
Wood has also said that in the plan currently under consideration, Burke would be responsible for 16% of the start-up costs and annual expenses of the joint district. Bellmont would have to cover 21.5% of those costs, while Chateaugay would be charged with paying 62.6% of the costs.
Bellmont Supervisor H. Bruce Russell has estimated the district would cost taxpayers roughly 90 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Several officials in the various towns have noted that the cost would not be just an addition to property owners’ tax bills –– there should be some accompanying reduction in the taxes raised to support the fire departments, since they would no longer be tasked with providing emergency medical services.
The Burke Town Board will hold its hearing on the ambulance district on July 14. Chateaugay has scheduled their hearing for July 20.