JOHNSTOWN – The City of Johnstown will now receive more than $60,000 annually from Fulton County to continue providing ambulance services to county residents.
While the deal provides additional financial relief, it doesn’t fully address the overtime pay problem that has resulted in 7 of the city’s 10 highest-paid employees being firefighters, according to a response from the law enforcement agency. freedom of information The Leader-Herald reported in January.
At its Monday meeting, the Johnstown Common Council unanimously approved the contract, which provides the city with annual funding of $60,300 from the county. This money will be paid in quarterly installments and the contract is valid until the end of 2023.
The fire department has been providing ambulance services in the city since 2019. While this service generates revenue through reimbursement of ambulance costs, it also costs the city in staff time – and that staff time s comes with significant overtime billing that can be unpredictable, according to fire chief Bruce Heberer.
“The problem is that every time we send the ambulance, we want to make sure that we have safe personnel in the event of a fire. But it’s in small increments,” Heberer told the Leader-Herald in January. “That sounds like a lot, but if you talk about the 1,350 or some calls we’ve had for EMS over the year, it breaks down into small increments. They’re not there the whole shift. They’re called when the ambulance left, then they come back.
The fire chief said the department has paid an average of about $200,000 in annual overtime since it took over ambulance services. However, he said these expenses were covered by reimbursements for ambulance costs.
The city’s 2022 budget projects $405,000 in revenue from ambulance fees, compared to $325,000 collected in 2021 and $395,000 collected in 2020. The department’s personal services expenses in 2022 are set at $245,000 per from $242,000 last year and down from $285,000 in 2020, according to the city budget.
“To lose [overtime] significantly, we would need one more person per shift,” Heberer said in January. “One of the things we’re going to discuss is maybe hiring full-time nurses which will cost less than hiring a nurse firefighter. Someone who would just do EMS which would significantly reduce the number of overtime hours,” the chief said. “That will be one of my proposals to the board, but I just need to do some more research on the cost of hiring someone full-time versus paying overtime.”
Mayor Amy Praught said her administration will continue to monitor the overtime situation.
“The treasurer and I are starting to assess the costs and revenues of the ambulance service,” she said. “With the additional money provided by the county, [the Fire Department] can continue to provide the ambulance service now without affecting the taxpayer. But from our point of view, we will evaluate month by month the incoming income and the outgoing expenses and the payroll.
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.