Negotiations between borough, ambulance company continue

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NEWS_AmbulanceNAUGATUCK — When borough officials approved the 2013-14 budget, it included no funding for Naugatuck Ambulance. 

Naugatuck Ambulance and the borough have been in negotiations for months after the borough raised concerns about whether it should continue to give funding to the ambulance company.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said the borough had been funding Naugatuck Ambulance in the past based on previous agreements.

Two years ago the borough gave Naugatuck Ambulance approximately $148,000. This fiscal year the borough’s budget included $100,000 for the company.

The contract that paid the ambulance service about $148,000 per year was not renewed after it expired last June.

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 were not returned and the borough did not paid the third-quarter bill issued in December. The fourth-quarter bill would have been issued in March, but the borough was not billed, given the disputed payments.

Since the issue is in litigation Mezzo was not able to say much about the matter.

“We’re still working to resolve the ambulance issues and at this time there hasn’t been a conclusion to that process,” Mezzo said.

Naugatuck Ambulance currently holds the Primary Service Area designation for Naugatuck, which is awarded and controlled by the state Department of Public Health.

Last year, the borough sought bids for emergency medical services and an ad hoc committee recommended the borough sign a one-year contract with Campion Ambulance, which bid $96,000 for the job. Naugatuck Ambulance’s bid for the same services was $296,000.

The recommendation was not acted on by the Board of Mayor and Burgesses since Naugatuck Ambulance holds the PSA for the borough.

The state only can revoke PSA agreements in emergencies where the responders’ performance is jeopardizing “the safety, health, and welfare of the citizens of the affected area,” according to state law. 

Naugatuck Ambulance President Larry Santoro said he was not sure exactly what impact receiving no money from the borough will have on the company. However, he said it will not affect the response time or the quality of care provided by the company.

Naugatuck Ambulance made a profit of $22,000 last year. However, the year before that it had a shortfall of $49,000.

“We don’t know what affect, if any, there will be. Everything is still in the hands of the attorneys. We’re just waiting for it to be worked out,” Santoro said. “Any comments passed that is just speculation.”