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Dedicated Del. Twp. Ambulance Tax Under Discussion

Dedicated Del. Twp. Ambulance Tax Under Discussion
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch, Thursday, October 19, 2017

DINGMANS FERRY – Delaware Township residents may get an additional tax for their ambulance corps, but it may not come for a long while.

The proposal was an agenda item discussed at the latest township Board of Supervisors workshop before its regularly scheduled meeting.  It calls for a half-mill dedicated tax, a yearly fee of $5-$8 per resident.  It would reap about $53,000 a year.

“We’re very much interested in the idea,” said board chairman John Henderson, who cautioned during the meeting that it would take some time if it were enacted.  “It’s a long way to consider it, a long way for dedicating it,” he said.

Because of its low millage rate, the tax fee can be approved by the Board of Supervisors and does not need to go to a voter referendum.  According to a spokesman for the state Center for Local Government, there is no millage limit requiring voter referendum approval for an emergency services tax.

Delaware Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps (DTVAC) Capt. Mary Lou Corbett and Ambulance Corps volunteer Kyle Wright came to the meeting to talk about that issue and to request $28,400 for repairs for one of its two ambulances, which includes $25,000 for a new engine and transmission and $3,400 for a new exhaust system, with paperwork receipts presented to the township.

The ambulance model year is 2010.  The township, during its regular meeting that followed, approved a reimbursement of that money from its unallocated General Fund.

Corbett said the other ambulance, a 2003 model year, has problems with its compressor and cannot be shut off while it is in service, which drains the battery.

But a dedicated funding for the Ambulance Corps became a more significant issue for discussion with the recent withdrawal from Pike County of Pennsylvania Regional EMS and Critical Care of Allentown, which provides Advanced Life Support (ALS) services.  Regional had informed local municipalities that it no longer could afford the insurance rates.

DTVAC Has ALS Service

Wright pointed out that Delaware Township has an ALS ambulance service in with paid, professionally qualified personnel who are available to township residents and greater Pike County.  Those personnel cover only 40 hours a week, based on the highest call volume.  Wright said the corps would like to expand that to 72 hours a week.

And what happens when a call for something urgent, such as a heart attack, comes in when ALS is not on duty?  “We drive (the ambulance) faster to the hospital,” Wright said.

DTVAC’s professionally trained volunteers cover the rest of the service – Basic Life Support (BLS), which covers things such as wounds and broken bones – around the clock.

“We’re in good position,” said Wright about the offering of ALS services by the ambulance corps for township resident with the loss of countywide ALS services.

Wright and Corbett pointed out that Delaware Township Fire Company currently has a 1.5 mill dedicated tax.

The Ambulance Corps relies on medical insurance coverage of residents in need, donations that Corbett said, “are not the way they used to be,” and a subscription drive that is under way.  She said a third party service handles billing for services and collections for the ambulance corps.

“It would not be a donation but a responsibility to help,” Corbett said.  “We want to be able to provide service and, unfortunately, have had to rely on mutual aid (for assistance).”

Corbett said the tax charge would help the corps, whose two ambulances have run up significant repair costs of late, to perhaps finance a new ambulance, which would cost about $300,000 fully equipped.

There are seven municipal ambulance services operating in Pike County, including Lackawaxen, Dingman, Palmyra and Westfall townships that each have two ambulances and Milford and Blooming Grove each have one.  Palmyra is served by two ambulances, with volunteer personnel from the Tafton Fire Company and Blooming Grove’s based out of Hemlock Farms.

Delaware Township and Lackawaxen are the only ones of those municipalities that have their own ambulance corps separate from the municipality’s fire company.

Wright said Lackawaxen has a 2.5 mill tax and Blooming Grove has a .5 mill tax that go to their ambulance corps.  Many other municipalities surveyed do not have dedicated taxes toward their emergency services but instead may donate money from their General Fund to emergency services that include fire companies and ambulance service.

Lehman Township has a .3 mill tax enacted in 2011 that goes toward all emergency services, including its volunteer fire company in its two firehouses and its ambulance services.

The ambulance service fees go largely to Bushkill Emergency Corps and part goes to Delaware Township Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which recently added to its call list the northern parts of the township that includes Ranchlands private community. 

Township officials continue to indicate that with the loss of countywide ALS services that municipalities will have to take further action for emergency health care under their primary mission of health, safety and welfare for the community.

“We do not have a (dedicated) tax (for emergency services) and it may come to that,” said Jo-Ann Rose, township administrator for Palmyra Township.  “With Regional gone, many of the townships are looking into things.  It’s becoming quire dire.”

Some townships without ambulance services such as Shohola , which relied on Regional for both ALS and BLS services now have to wait for the emergency call center to assign a service.  Lehman Township, for example, is serviced by Suburban when Bushkill is not available for calls.  Corbett said that, in some cases, it would involved a 40-minute wait for Delaware Township to get its ALS unit to someone in need at a distant municipal location, if it’s ALS unit is in service at that time.

No Tax Increase Anticipated

A draft of the township budget was released at the meeting, showing a surplus of $57,317. The budget, which has a $1,118,435 revenue figure versus $1,061,118 in expenditures, was formulated at the first budget workshop held on Oct. 6.  Township Treasurer and Supervisor Jane Neufeld stressed that it is the first draft before it is presented in a public hearing for approval in December.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” said Henderson, who has been budget conscious in his tenure as supervisor.  “I can’t say enough about what Jane and Krista (Predmore, township administrator) have done on this budget.  Residents should be heartened and reassured.”

Henderson said he particularly liked how some General Fund money would be set aside in separate reserve fund accounts to pay for things, such as building repairs in that designated fund, as needed.

Neufeld, who served as township auditor, was developed the budget in her latest role as interim supervisor.  She resigned as auditor to take that post and is running unopposed for a supervisor seat in the Nov. 7 General Election.

False Alarm Ordinance

Also at the township workshop, the board released its new “False Alarm Ordinance,” which not only involves false calls but also faulty detection signals by emergency protection devices.  First and second offenses will get a written warning but third offenses will get hit with a $50 fee, forth false alarms will get a $100 fee and give or more will cost $200 each.  Township Acting Fire Chief Chris Kimble and Emergency Management Coordinator George Beodeker both supported the ordinance but were granted the opportunity to meet with township officials to discuss rewording some of the ordinance.  As a result, the date for the public hearing on the ordinance was tabled during the regular meeting.

Also at the regular meeting, Marguerite Nemeth was appointed to the township Planning Commission seat held previously by Tom Ryan.  Margaret Veydovec also was in consideration after both submitted letters of interest.

Neufeld praised the commendable backgrounds of both candidates but board members said they were very impressed with Nemeth’s credentials from her work as a 30-year resident in the township and in New Jersey where she lived previously and worked in municipal government.

Nemeth served as township Zoning Hearing Board Secretary for four years and on the Environmental Advisory Council for six years and has been a member of the Board of Directors for private community Wild Acres for 10 year.  The Planning Commission now has its full complement of seven members with Nemeth’s appointment.

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