NAUGATUCK — The borough and Naugatuck Ambulance are in legal negotiations months after a dispute arose over whether the borough should continue subsidizing the private ambulance service.
Larry Santoro, president of Naugatuck Ambulance, said he submitted a proposal for a new contract about a month ago to the borough, but has not received a reply. He declined to discuss the terms of his proposal.
“The lines of communication are still open,” Santoro said.
Santoro said he was optimistic something would be worked out “in the very near future.”
Naugatuck Ambulance is the borough’s state-designated primary emergency medical responder, but has also received stipends from the borough, paid quarterly, under a contract between the two. That contract most recently paid the ambulance service about $148,000 per year, but was not renewed after it expired last June.
An exchange between legal staff for the borough and Naugatuck Ambulance left Santoro with the impression that the ambulance service would continue to receive the stipends after the contract had expired. The borough was billed for, and paid, more than $75,000 for the first half of the fiscal year.
Borough officials said they had agreed not to pay the ambulance service after the contract expired, unless a new one was approved. In a Dec. 5 letter to the ambulance service’s lawyer, borough attorney Edward Fitzpatrick said the payments were made in error and demanded their return.
The payments have not been returned and the borough has not paid the third-quarter bill issued in December. The fourth-quarter bill would have been issued this month, but Santoro said he has not billed the borough, given the disputed payments.
Mayor Robert Mezzo confirmed both sides were meeting to address legal issues, but declined to comment on the specifics, citing ongoing negotiations.
The Board of Finance recommended no money be allocated to pay Naugatuck Ambulance next fiscal year after a meeting in February to hear public safety budget proposals.
That, however, is subject to change before the budget is adopted in May.
The borough has also paid about $14,000 yearly to lease space at 246 Rubber Ave., the Public Works Department headquarters, from Naugatuck Ambulance, which owns the building. The title to the property reverts back to the borough when Naugatuck Ambulance pays off its mortgage, which is scheduled for Sept. 1, officials have said.
The public works budget for next year contains about $9,000 for three months’ rent, as well as utilities costs for the remaining nine months.
Without the roughly $37,000 that the borough would have paid for the third quarter, the private nonprofit has been spending more carefully, but has not cut payroll, supplies or equipment, Santoro said.
“It’s making it a little bit tight, but we’re still providing the same quality service we always have,” Santoro said.