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Town votes to combine ambulance districts

Bethlehem brought under single tax rate after EMS merger

— Bethlehem’s two volunteer ambulance agencies merged at the beginning of the year, and now the Bethlehem Town Board has voted to dissolve the town’s separate ambulance districts.

The vote was taken on Wednesday, Sept. 11, following a public comment period on the plan. No members of the public spoke on the topic.

Because of the town’s three separate taxing districts, residents were paying different tax rates for ambulance service depending on where they lived. With the dissolution of the districts, all Bethlehem residents will be paying the same rate for ambulance service.

“This is about accountability to our residents,” Supervisor John Clarkson said.

In January, Delmar EMS and Bethlehem EMS combined into Delmar-Bethlehem EMS, following a September report from the town’s District Board of Ambulance Commissioners that concluded money could be saved if the two agencies joined forces. Originally, leaders of the two groups felt Jan. 1 was an unrealistic target date to complete the restructuring. But after several months of working together, the consensus is the project went smoothly.

“These folks are not only doing an excellent job distinguishing themselves and attracting volunteers, they’re also helping us lower costs,” said Clarkson.

The District Board of Ambulance Commissioners was created under former Supervisor Sam Messina in July of 2011 to look into the rising cost of emergency medical services. The group’s report found a “great variation” existed between services provided in the southern and northern parts of the town.

Through the merger, insurance and vender costs were reduced. Practices and procedures are now also the same throughout the agency and all volunteers are familiar with those measures. In addition, all ambulances have been set up exactly the same way so every one is equipped to the same standard.

The property tax rate is expected to decrease for all residents to around $30 for a home assessed at $250,000.

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