Supervisors Issue Statement on Ambulance Problems
By Wayne Witkowski
DINGMANS FERRY -- The Delaware Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps has been on life support with a fragile budget and a shortage of volunteers as the Board of Supervisors is taking a firm stand on the issue.
The board issued a lengthy statement at the start of its latest meeting last week that ushered in some emotionally charged responses from many of the large gathering that came to hear about the issue.
The statement is a response to the public outcry for the supervisors to take action for a local emergency service that has shrunken drastically in its mission to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of the community.
Part of the statement reads: "We have been part of a multi-municipality group seeking to have ALS (Advanced Life Support) in a reasonable way. ... We want to help move our ambulance service toward greater reliability without increasing risk of less response to our 911 calls."
The statement says the ambulance corps has faced a "continual struggle - both financially and regarding personnel" but that, when "asking a lot of questions, many remain unanswered."
"We cannot tell DTVAC what to do. As best we can -- and according to our current laws and regulations -- we want to ensure services are provided, including appropriate levels of financial and administrative help. We have money set aside in a budget. Importantly, we have the responsibility to do more than hand over money. ...
"In any decisions we make, we want to do our best for all of our residents. We hold having emergency responder services and those who work to give them in the highest regard. Our responsibility is not to issue a blank check without us insuring that our taxpayer money is going to better the situation and move things toward something that will be sustainable."
Carl Will, newly installed ambulance corps lieutenant, met with the supervisors in an executive session before they presented their prepared statement and opened a forum to discuss residents' concerns. Will pointed out that the number of volunteers who are vital to complementing paid ALS-trained professionals has dwindled to five.
Former ambulance corps captain Mary Lou Corbett who attended the meeting said beforehand that the shortage of volunteers led her to step down in the fall.
"It's tough when you get uy in the middle of the night with an emergency call coming through and no driver is available," said Corbett, who has been succeeded by Kyle Wright.
Will said in his presentation he could not present budget specifics but they would be supplied to the township by the corps soon. "It's do-able," he said after the meeting.
"We've asked the questions for seven or eight years and still need answers," said township Solicitor Thomas Farley. "Do we want to help the ambulance? Absolutely. But it also has to help itself."
Will also disputed a statement as "incorrect" given to the supervisors in late November by Wright about reduced hour schedules. He said the current service schedule includes Monday evening only, Tuesday and Wednesday during daytime and evening hours and on Thursday for 24 hours. Will said service on Friday is "on and off" and that Saturday and Sunday has only night time service. Despite the shortage of personnel, Will said that schedule he stated would be honored.
A public meeting was held at the ambulance corps building on Park Avenue on Tuesday this week to further explain and discuss specifics with ambulance corps personnel.
Township Administrator Krista Predmore explained after the supervisors meeting that the Delaware Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps had a total budget of $60,950 for 2018 and a $55,000 line item contribution for 2018. There also is a $55,000 line item contribution for 2019.
Out of that 2018 funding, the ambulance corps received $11,260 in funding requested from the township. It included $9,300 for fuel for its three ambulances, which is beyond the township's $5,200 budget projection. The corps also requested and received $1,300 for workmen's compensation, $170 for cell phone service and $490 for a state of emergency reimbursement for damages suffered and services performed during severe winter storms last March.
The ambulance corps has not requested funding for ambulance repairs since the $28,805 it received in 2017 for transmission and other engine repairs.
Board of Supervisors Chairman John Henderson told the gathering, "We give them money when they justify it and not when they can't." But Henderson later said, "We see a pattern coming out with their new directors. It's a start."
The board at the meeting approved seven fundraising events that included a plant sale and a holiday wreath sale and selling lottery calendars. Another passed motion approved township workers' assistance in dropping off and picking up chairs and tables for fundraising chicken barbecue and pig roast events as well as traffic control assistance for those events.
Township Emergency Management Coordinator George Beodeker and resident Liz Forrest both spoke about the need for accountability for the ambulance corps. Without that, Beodeker said with emotion, "you get what you deserve."
Clare Bennett, president of the Birchwood Lakes Community Association, stressed to Will the need for reliable around-the-lock services and challenged the limited schedule.
Supervisor Jane Neufeld said she had served in the past with the ambulance corps and said, "The system is being stressed and not finding a solution quickly." But she assured residents that there is no need to express panic on social media platforms and public discourse because they will receive timely ambulance services elsewhere from emergency center dispatches if Delaware Township's ambulance corps is unavailable for a service call.
"Our residents need to understand that if you call 911 and if it's not coming up for Delaware Township (ambulance corps), Dingman Township, Hemlock Farms, Westfall can respond. They are trained to get you the help you need. ... That hasn't changed."
Also at the meeting, the board approved $3,500 to renew Lake Akenac lake management services with Aquatic Environment Consultants Inc. .. Electronic recycling days were approved for April 6 and Oct. 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. .. The board approved advertising for vacancies on the Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board and the Recreation Committee.
The board approved Predmore and Vince Flatt to attend Probably Cause Training for CDL Supervisory Personnel and CMV/CDL Records Management for March 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lehman Township Municipal Building, with a total cost of $140.