County attorney disputes claim that provider purchased diesel fuel from county
REMS is looking elsewhere to fill its gas tanks since Rotterdam Town Supervisor Frank Del Gallo pulled the plug on the ambulance service provider’s access to tax-free diesel fuel.
Rotterdam Emergency Medical Services had been receiving fuel tax free from the town, but with taxpayer funding for REMS being cut from the town budget, Del Gallo said the not-for-profit organization must look elsewhere to fill its ambulances.
On Tuesday, Jan. 4, Del Gallo sent Joe Vanderwerker, president of REMS board of directors, an e-mail asking for the fuel key to be immediately returned to the town, according to Frank Salamone, attorney for REMS. On the morning of Thursday, Jan. 6, the key stopped working, said Salamone.
It seems counterintuitive to try to make it even more difficult for a nonprofit ambulance service provider to provide service for the town that it is in charge for serving and protecting, said Salamone.
Del Gallo said that with the failed tax district vote, which would have paid for REMS to continue, the future of the organization is unclear.
`They don’t have a contract to get fuel so they can’t get it,` said Del Gallo.
Salamone said REMS had to purchase fuel from a Hess station on Thursday, adding an additional expense for REMS. The tax-free fuel price is established by the state rate, which fluctuates based on the current price of fuel before taxes, said Salamone. In the beginning of December, said Salamone, REMS was paying $2.58 for diesel fuel from Rotterdam and at the end of the month REMS paid $2.92.
`There are others ways, because they are a nonprofit, for them to attain fuel,` said Salamone.
If REMS purchased a fuel contract with a private gas station, he said, the organization would still have to pay full price, but through filed quarterly IRS reports REMS could be reimbursed. Gas was previously purchased by REMS through agreements between White Eagle Ambulance Service and Rotterdam Volunteer Emergency Medical Corp with the town, which were the two organizations consolidated to form REMS.
Councilwoman Nicola DiLeva said she wasn’t informed about Del Gallo’s decision to stop selling gas to REMS.
`He has never discussed it with us,` said DiLeva. `I have more questions than answers there.`
As a short-term solution for REMS, Salamone said the county agreed to let REMS’ ambulances purchase fuel from it, because of the public safety issue, until another agreement is worked out.
County Attorney Chris Gardner said on Tuesday, Jan. 11, he was `not aware of any actions,` which involved REMS purchasing fuel from county.
`We do not have a license to sell fuel it would not be lawful for us to do so,` said Gardner.
On the evening of Monday, Jan. 10, after the Rotterdam Town Board agenda meeting Salamone confirmed REMS had purchased fuel from the county on Friday, Jan. 7, but didn’t know if purchases were made beyond that day.
`I just talked to someone over there [at REMS], they got it on Friday they don’t know if they got fuel today [Jan. 10],` said Salamone. `The person I talked to said they had not heard any problems with it [fuel key] not working, so I would assume that the pump is on and they are getting gas from the county, they did on Friday.`
has filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for county fuel records pertaining to REMS.
Salamone said REMS is still the ambulance service provider for Rotterdam and is responding to emergency calls.
`If you are in the Town of Rotterdam and you call 911 and you need an ambulance, then REMS is dispatched to your house,` said Salamone.
The for-profit Mohawk Ambulance has been making a push to provide emergency services to the town at no cost to taxpayers.“