Questions concerning UVAC

To the Editor,

UVAC President George Coates' letter of March 19, 2013 contains misstatements and gaps in information I hope to fill in here.

First is the assertion that UVAC's board and advisers have “chosen to stay out of politics.” This would be funny if the actions of politicians that run UVAC had not already cost taxpayers in three municipalities so much money.

Politicians on the Columbus Town Board voted (3-2) to give $40,000 to UVAC this year rather than $12,000 to the New Berlin Ambulance, which offers 24-7 paramedic coverage. Those same politicians have been named as UVAC Advisory Board members, designated by the company.

Is this staying out of politics?

Think about the long-term cost of trying to drive a municipal ambulance service out of business, of pitting community boards against each other, of ignoring overwhelming public opinion. These are the legacy of politicians, too, some in, some out of office.

UVAC began operating in the spring of 2012, even though the towns were bound by contract to use the Village of New Berlin Ambulance Service. This contract was not set to expire until February 2013, but instead of honoring it, town board politicians asked their lawyer, Terence Hannigan, to see if they could break the contract.

After Mr. Hannigan found loopholes, the town boards reneged on their contract with the Village, and directed funds to a company that had been incorporated by Mr. Hannigan on Dec. 2, 2011. Along the way, Mr. Hannigan has submitted bills to Columbus and New Berlin for thousands of dollars.

Taxpayers in Columbus and New Berlin saw this coming and voted 283-to-43 in New Berlin and 141-to-30 in Columbus against UVAC on January 24, 2012. Mr. Coates asserts the ambulance district vote was not a referendum on UVAC, but as presented by his associate, Mr. Hannigan, UVAC's incorporator, it most certainly was...

In Columbus, the referendum question asked taxpayers if they wanted to approve an ambulance district “as previously described on the Map, Plan and Report...” of the Columbus Ambulance District. On Jan. 24, 2012, that “Map, Plan and Report” - more of Mr. Hannigan's handiwork - was lying on a table for voters to examine at the Columbus Town Hall. And on page 10, it states: “It is contemplated that a new not-for-profit corporation will be created for the sole purpose of providing emergency medical and ambulance services. This new corporation will be substituted in the place of the Village and will operate under a certificate of operating authority for the ambulance service issued by the New York State Department of Health and the regional emergency medical council covering the area embraced by the districts.”

So what's a voter to think​?

On Feb. 28, 2013, that regional medical council, SREMS, decided the Town of New Berlin should not have the right to operate an ambulance and denied the Town's application for a permanent CON. These rank and file EMS experts found that UVAC was not significantly faster than CMT, and that the New Berlin Town Board had done little to improve existing services before starting its own. After reviewing the testimony of local residents at the Feb. 4, 2012 public hearing, after reviewing evidence, the experts concluded what Mr. Coates seems slow to realize, the costly UVAC experiment should end, because not everyone is qualified to operate an ambulance.

Mr. Coates provides numbers from the Village of New Berlin, but none from his own company. How far in debt is UVAC and who is responsible for that debt? Is UVAC losing money daily? What are the company's legal costs, and who is paying them? And who is on its board of directors now that three of the four original officers have resigned? Taxpayers want to know.

Robert Huot

Town of Columbus

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