NAUGATUCK — The borough is refusing to pay Naugatuck Ambulance in the absence of a contract with the private nonprofit ambulance corps, and is demanding the return of more than $75,000 that was paid since the last contract expired in June.
Larry Santoro, president of Naugatuck Ambulance, is disputing the claim that his organization billed the borough improperly and says both sides had agreed to continue operating under the terms of the expired contracted, which gave the ambulance service $148,000 per year.
A letter from borough attorney Edward Fitzpatrick to the ambulance service’s attorney, Derby-based Dominick Thomas, says the borough mistakenly made the first two quarterly payments of this fiscal year.
“As you know, there exists no contract between your client and the Borough of Naugatuck,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “Based on your client’s submissions, the Borough of Naugatuck has issued the two above-mentioned payments in error and without authorization.”
Further payments will not be made until the Board of Mayor and Burgesses approves them, Fitzpatrick wrote.
The third-quarter bill, sent last month and again last week, has not been paid, said Larry Santoro, president of Naugatuck Ambulance.
Although there is no contract, Naugatuck Ambulance holds a Primary Service Area Responder designation from the state, which means it is required to provide emergency medical services in the borough whether it receives supplemental payments or not.
The borough board and the Board of Finance agreed not to pay Naugatuck Ambulance while it was operating without a contract, but budgeted $100,000 for emergency management services in case money was needed after negotiations concluded, said Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi, chairwoman of the borough’s emergency management services oversight committee. That decision was not communicated properly to the finance department, leading to the first two bills being paid, but Rossi said all staffers have now been notified.
“There are many communities that do not have contracts with the EMS provider,” Rossi said.
Fitzpatrick echoed Rossi’s point and said officials were questioning whether the ambulance service needed the borough’s payments.
In a June email to attorney Alicia Perillo of Fitzpatrick’s firm, Thomas wrote, “There will be no renewal of the agreement for a period of time but the service and billing will continue as in the existing agreement.
Perillo replied, “Okay, great.”
In a Jan. 2 letter to Fitzpatrick, Thomas pointed to the email exchange as proof Naugatuck Ambulance should be paid, but Fitzpatrick denied the claim, referencing a May meeting in his office where he said the matter had been decided with Santoro.
“Your client agreed to continue to provide the current level of service and continue to collect his patient receivables only, with no additional funds from the Borough of Naugatuck,” Fitzpatrick wrote.
Only the mayor, with approval from the borough board, could have authorized payments from the borough, which was never done, Fitzpatrick wrote.
Santoro said the contract was never discussed during the May meeting and that he is planning to consult with Thomas before responding to the situation.
Santoro said the ambulance service would have trouble making ends meet without payments from the borough.
“We would find a way, somehow, to continue, but it would be very, very difficult,” Santoro said.