You may have already read or heard the recent announcement that Mohawk Ambulance Service will be constructing and operating a new 6,000 square foot ambulance facility in the Town of Brunswick. I think most of you are at least aware of Mohawk Ambulance since we often see their ambulances here in Town, responding to emergency calls. For those of you who might be otherwise unfamiliar with Mohawk Ambulance, it was founded in 1978, and is the largest privately owned ambulance service in the Capital Region. It provides both Basic Life Support and Advanced Life Support ambulance services in the counties of Rensselaer, Albany, Schenectady and Saratoga, and employs more than 300 New York State Certified Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics. The facility to be constructed will be located on Mc Chesney Avenue, near its intersection with McChesney Avenue Extension. It will include four (4) drive-thru ambulance bays, allowing for up to eight (8) ambulances to be stationed there at any given time, as well as bath, eating and sleeping facilities for the paramedics and EMT’s.
This is, indeed, excellent news for the residents of the Town of Brunswick, and of our neighboring towns and communities. Having the capability to house and deploy as many as eight (8) ambulances at any given time will greatly expand Mohawk’s ability to provide ambulance service, and enable it to more quickly respond to emergency calls within the Town and throughout rural Rensselaer County. I should also note at this juncture that as a private, for profit, ambulance service, Mohawk’s new facility will be assessed for and pay town, county and school taxes like any other business.
Perhaps you’re wondering why Mohawk chose to locate its new facility in Brunswick. I’m sure some of it has to do with our population, central location, and proximity to Route 7. Additionally, however, as some of you may know, the Town of Brunswick has essentially been “partnering” with Mohawk since the early 2000s as regards making emergency ambulance service more available and timely in our Town. It is no secret that even the availability of emergency ambulance service, much less having acceptable emergency response times, has long been an issue for a town like ours, which is primarily rural in nature. For my part, I had heard far too many stories from concerned residents and emergency responders from our Fire Companies here in Town about frequent lapses in ambulance service and inordinate delays in response time. Like other communities similar to ours, we have grappled with the problem and came to the conclusion that having a town-owned ambulance service was simply not sustainable from a budgetary and fiscal standpoint, given our tax base and what we could reasonably expect our residents to be able to afford in taxes. Building or purchasing a suitable facility, and purchasing one or more ambulances and associated equipment and supplies, would be only part of the problem. There would also need to be 24-7 staffing, which means salaries, fringe benefits, pensions, back-up staff, training costs, insurance, etc. Over the years, the issue has been revisited several times, most recently from a county-wide or more regional standpoint. Unfortunately, it became clear that once you expand the area to be served to “spread out” the cost to the point where it was close to reasonably sustainable, the availability of ambulance service when needed, and the response times, suffered.
So, what we did years ago, was come to a contractual arrangement with Mohawk Ambulance Service whereby Mohawk would base a single ambulance and emergency response team in Brunswick on a 24-7 basis if the Town provided it, without charge, a suitable facility consisting of a single ambulance bay, as well as modest bath and rest facilities for the response team. To be clear, while it was understood that the primary utilization of the paramedics and EMT’s based in Brunswick was responding to requests for service within the Town, it was also understood that the ambulance could and would be deployed to calls outside of Brunswick if it was available. So, this was never understood to be an ambulance “dedicated” solely to the Town of Brunswick. Rather, the expectation was that there would be an ambulance and crew stationed in Brunswick on a regular basis, which would then be able to respond to emergency calls in Brunswick more quickly and expeditiously. The cost of our providing the ambulance facilities to Mohawk, while not insignificant, was deemed on our part to be acceptable, and a benefit to the people of our Town, given the fact that lives are threatened when ambulance service is unavailable or long-delayed. While not a perfect solution, overall, I believe that the arrangement has significantly benefitted the Town, as well as Mohawk. Inevitably, there have been times when there have been emergency calls in Town and the ambulance housed here has been deployed elsewhere on another call. But we knew that could happen going in. Ambulance service is generally not “scheduled” in advance. So, the ambulance and crew could be sitting here in Brunswick “on standby” and then be deployed by Mohawk to an emergency in another town. If an emergency requiring an ambulance then occurred in Brunswick, while the ambulance was responding to that other call, it would, of course, be unavailable to respond to the Brunswick call.
In any case, with Mohawk Ambulance Service now constructing its own ambulance facility here in Town, our expectation is that we will continue working cooperatively to see that emergency ambulance service remains available and timely for our residents, albeit without the further need for a contractual arrangement. Once it is up and running, given the much larger facility, there should be, at minimum, several ambulances and crews stationed there, which should increase the overall availability of emergency ambulance service in the Town, and significantly reduce response times. Additionally, Town will no longer have to expend funds to provide Mohawk with a facility so an ambulance and crew could be stationed here and be reasonably available. That, alone is a benefit and savings to the Town. And, as previously stated, Mohawk’s new facility will increase our tax base and contribute its fair share to our community. So, all in all, this is a positive and welcome development in and for our Town, and we look forward to Mohawk’s increased presence here.