The Richmondville Volunteer Emergency Squad is on the brink of closing.
But even as members last week voted to shut down, squad President Scott Bennett is desperately looking for answers--and money--to keep the service going.
Meanwhile, other officials are seeking alternatives for coverage in case RVES does close, as planned, on October 31.
The squad grappled with the twin problems of money and membership at meetings the past two months. At the latest meeting last Wednesday, Richmondville town Supervisor Dick Lape offered RVES $12,800 for 2017.
Unlike other local rescue squads, RVES receives no local tax dollars and depends on donations and patients' insurance for income. During its troubles, the squad has asked the town and village for funds.
Although he appreciated Mr. Lape's offer, Mr. Bennett said the amount wouldn't be enough without money from the village. After Wednesday's meeting, the 24 squad members, in a voice vote, agreed to shut down.
"Had the village come up with something, I think we could work it out," Mr. Bennett said.
Mayor Kevin Neary, however, countered that village residents pay town taxes, so they have a share in the $12,800.
Mr. Bennett isn't giving up hope. Even though members voted to close, he's held off mailing the necessary letter of intent to the state Department of Health.
And the letter of intent isn't the final nail. RVES must send in its operating certificate to make the closing final, Mr. Bennett said.
"We're not quitting yet," he said. "We're shaking the trees [for money]."
Mr. Lape isn't giving up, either. He noted that the squad is "still working on things, which is a good sign."
But at the same time, Mr. Lape is also planning how to provide rescue service if RVES does close.
To that end, he met with a state Health Department representative, a member of the Cobleskill Rescue Squad and Mike Hartzel, the county director of Emergency Management, to see what could be done.
Mr. Lape called the effort a back-up plan in case RVES closes.
Mr. Hartzel was confident there would be some alternative to RVES.
"We have a couple of good plans in mind, maybe something with Cobleskill," he said. "We'll come up with a solid plan without RVES."
The most likely option coming out of Monday's meeting, Mr. Lape reported, was that RVES' certificate of need could be transferred to the town. That would allow the town to contract with another service--Cobleskill, for instance---for ambulance coverge.
Mr. Bennett said that maintaining RVES would be the best result. Other solutions, he added, wouldn't serve the community as well.
"Richmondville won't go without ambulance service, but people will wait longer for an ambulance," Mr. Bennett said.
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RVES' station, which is along Route 7, sits on land owned by the Village of Richmondville. If RVES closes, ownership of the building goes to the village, Mr. Bennett believed.
The village would also assume responsibility for the mortgage RVES holds on the building, he added.
Mayor Neary, however, wasn't sure the village would take over ownership.
If the squad closes, RVES must also sell its assets and pay any remaining bills, Mr. Bennett said.
If there's any money left over, members will decide where to donate it. They won't keep the money, Mr. Bennett said.