NORTH TROY – Tuesday, Troy voters appropriated $23,450 for ambulance services from Missisquoi Valley Ambulance Service (MVAS). MVAS had requested that amount at Town Meeting but voters had rejected the request.
Tuesday's vote passed 53 to 21.
On Town Meeting Day, residents voted to pay $18,585 instead of the requested amount. Scott Rappold, MVAS president, reacted by sending a letter to the Troy Select Board that stated the service could not provide coverage for the approved amount.
That left select board members asking for a quote from Newport Ambulance Service (NAS), whose officials agreed to provide coverage if needed. NAS is approximately 20 to 30 minutes away while MVAS is just minutes away, which concerned some residents.
The difference is not a lot of money when it comes to saving a life, Donna Scata said.
North Troy Fire Chief David Allen expressed concerns about travel time from Newport, especially during construction season. “We’re only talking a $5,000 difference,” said Allen.
A resident, who refused to give his name to the press, said he heard of a resident who waited two hours for the ambulance.
Eventually everyone will need the ambulance, said Pat Dumont.
“In 1967, I was in a car accident, up in Troy…. My mother and father took me to the hospital while waiting for the Newport Ambulance,” said Virgil Starr. “I also laid in my bed at home and had Missisquoi Ambulance come and get me.”
Starr gave Kudos to MVAS and its members.
Chris Wellhoff compared the price difference to two competing stores. “We are losing track of common sense and I’m the same way, because it is a crucial service,” said Wellhoff.
MVAS officials said it wasn’t about them verses NAS and NAS provides good service.
Kristy Royea, who has been a member of MVAS for several years, told the group she felt they were being petty and predicted in a year they would be fighting about increased costs with NAS.
Cookie Stocek, who works with NAS, stressed NAS didn’t ask to cover Troy and is not looking to take anything away from MVAS.
Figures, put together by Rappold and Stocek, show for the year ending Dec. 31, 2011, MVAS expenses were $270,512.42, and they were $15,372.25 in the hole. When asked, Rappold said MVAS also has a certificate of deposit with Community National Bank for just under $13,000.
Earlier in the meeting, some residents expressed displeasure with the internal audit of the ambulance service. Ken Hamelin said residents have been asking for an external audit.
“The reason they got rebuffed two years ago and got level funded was because they didn’t do as they were asked,” said Hamelin. “We simple asked for an internal audit.”
MVAS doesn’t have money to hire a bookkeeper, which is why audits are done internally, Rappold said. He said if anything causes concerns, the service does an external audit. Several years ago, MVAS did an outside audit that cost nearly $4,000.
Rappold, answering questions about billing, explained patients are billed from where the ambulance picks them up and takes them to the receiving facility.
MVAS doesn’t charge when it responds, but doesn’t transport anybody. Rappold, could not answer why someone saw the ambulance parked at least two times at the Price Chopper Store in Derby, but suggested the attendants may have been eating while waiting to transport a patient at the hospital.
Dave Hamelin asked why private industries, like Jay Peak Resort, didn’t have a private contract aside from the towns.
Billing a business in one of the towns might not be legal and MVAS doesn’t treat Jay Peak Resort different than any other business, said Rappold, who pointed out the resort helps the MVAS.
MVAS receives 50 to 60 percent of the bill for Medicare/Medicaid patents, Rappold said.