Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

County bases ambulance at nearby park while Pelham negotiates new EMS deal; residents again ask town board for improved coverage

Courtesy Westchester EMS

Westchester County will temporarily base an ambulance at Wilson Woods Park to respond in Pelham, New Rochelle and Mount Vernon when local services are engaged elsewhere, according to a June 28 announcement by the Town of Pelham.

“While temporary, this added service should provide some relief until our current EMS negotiations are finalized.” the town said.

The news follows a June 5 Pelham  Town Council meeting where the major topic again was ambulance service in the town, with Supervisor Dan McLaughlin running through the history of emergency services in Pelham and residents calling for some kind of dedicated ambulance operation.

McLaughlin said the town’s paramedic fly car—which gets one medic and equipment to a scene but can’t transport patients—has been successful since its start 20 years ago, working well up until the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, he said the town board has long had concerns about the lack of a dedicated ambulance in town.

As a result, the board developed a request for proposals for a dedicated ambulance in town. But town officials have so far said the proposals Pelham received were too expensive for the town—and anyway can’t be acted on this year because the budget is locked in place.

That process received much greater public attention when the board held an emergency meeting May 25 to discuss the death of a Village of Pelham Manor resident on May 18, the 14 minutes it took to get an ambulance to the man’s house and to provide an update on the council’s efforts with the RFP.

At the June 5 meeting ten days later, resident Katie Keenan said, “In a medical emergency, every second counts,” making it imperative there be a dedicated ambulance rather than solely relying on the fly car.

To restore trust and ensure transparency, Keenan called for greater visibility into EMS response times. She said there should be comprehensive statistics and breakdowns of response rates by unit, including the fly car and ambulances. She said this data would help establish accountability among service providers and allow the community to track improvements in response times.

Town board has been receptive

“Many town boards do not know what goes on with EMS in their town, and the Pelham Town Board has been very receptive,” said resident Gene Iannuzzi, who has worked as a paramedic and an ER nurse and helped the town with the RFP. Iannuzzi said the solution to the current ambulance shortage is readily available, and all that is required is the collective will of the Pelham community to address the pressing matter.

Iannuzzi said the investment needed to enhance EMS services in Pelham is a mere fraction of the budget allocated to schools and other expenditures in the town and two villages. Concerns about emergency services in town had been raised prior to the death of the Pelham Manor man in May, and that further highlighted the urgent need for immediate action.

“The system isn’t working,” said resident Louis Bastone. He said he had previously used Pelham’s emergency medical services for his son, but didn’t get the fly car or an ambulance in that situation. Instead, the police came to provide aid because the fly car was taking care of another emergency.

On average, the approximately $1.7 million price tag the town received to provide dedicated ambulance service would increase annual property taxes by about $300 on a house appraised at $1 million, said McLaughlin.

Town officials have disclosed few other details from the ambulance proposals they received as a result of the RFP. The town’s 2023 budget is $4.66 million.

Pelham resident Ashley Mills expressed her frustration that the small increase in taxes would be considered a problem. “We’re talking about potentially losing a child,” she said. “We’re talking about a family losing their father.”

Some attending the meeting suggested fundraising for the interim period between now and Dec. 31, when the town’s new budget year starts. (This was before the announcement of the temporary basing of a county ambulance at Wilson Woods Park. The town’s statement did not say how long the rig will be there.)

McLaughlin said the the council would respond to the idea of fundraising, while Councilwoman Kristen Burke said the board would need to research how it would align with existing regulations and assess its feasibility and potential impact.

Village of Pelham firefighters train as EMTs

Iannuzzi said all Village of Pelham firefighters train as EMTs, while the Pelham Manor Board of Trustees chose not to incorporate such training into its fire department. Two Manor police officers are EMTs, and three moe will begin training for the certification, it was recently announced by the Pelham Manor board.

Resident Mike Lahn, a former employee at New York-Presbyterian Westchester Hospital, said he noticed the Pelham fly car leaving town consistently. “Every time I used to see it, I was like, Pelham’s kind of uncovered right now,” he said. He also endorsed the idea of the Eastchester Volunteer Ambulance Corps providing service, an idea disclosed by Deputy Supervisor Rae Szymanski at the May 25 emergency meeting.

Resident Marin Zielinski said the town board should reallocate funds in the budget from recreation or the library to pay for the ambulance service rather than raising taxes.

“We’re not looking at taking” from these programs, said Szymanski.

A representative from the office of State Sen. Nathalia Fernandez told the meeting Fernandez wants to help with the problem. The senator is aware of the current situation, and getting Pelham an ambulance is at the top of her capital funding priorities, the representative said.

McLaughlin encouraged residents to email thoughts and ideas to the town board. Contacts can be found here.

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About the Contributor
Gillian Ho, Deputy Managing Editor
Gillian Ho is a senior at the Horace Mann School. She has been a Pelham resident since 2016 and has written for the Pelham Examiner since its start in 2018. In school, Gillian writes for her school's newspaper and actively participates in public forum debate. She hopes to pursue journalism in college. During her free time, she fences in and out of school.

Comments (1)

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    Marin ZielinskiJul 6, 2023 at 6:58 pm

    I appreciate this coverage, but the opinion attributed to me is incorrect. I neither said at the meeting nor do I believe that the town should take funds from existing programs for a dedicated ambulance. My point was only that doing so is an option, and it would be helpful to frame it that way. It’s up to the town to prioritize our expenditures; I’m one of many people for whom an ambulance is #1. I’m all for raising taxes so we can keep all our other programs too, but which costs are imperative vs. which are “extra” we’ll add if we want to raise taxes is the very decision the town has to make, not a fixed equation.

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