“We’re going to be the busiest ambulance company in town,” said Ron Hintze, a longtime board of director.
To offset those added costs for a district where the average taxpayer pays between $150 to $200 per year for ambulance service, the board members are proposing to bring back third-party billing. Mr. Hintze spoke Wednesday night at a joint meeting of several civic organizations in the Flanders area, where he highlighted the high cost and amount of time it takes for volunteers to be certified in Advanced Life Support of Basic Life Support. He also discussed the difficulty of securing drivers during daytime hours.
Mr. Hintze said the Flanders Northampton Ambulance District — which covers Flanders, Riverside and Northampton — has a higher tax rate and smaller budget than the other ambulance districts in Southampton Town because of the amount of tax-exempt land in the district.
The FNVA responds to the second most calls in the town of four ambulance districts, Mr. Hintze said. In Hampton Bays, which is first, and Westhampton Beach, the average taxpayer pays about $35 to $50, he said.
Several people in attendance Wednesday said they would support third-party billing. In that scenario, people receiving ambulance services would have the cost billed to their insurance company. Riverhead Town is also in the process of implementing third-party billing.
It’s one of three options discussed to increase revenue for the district, but the only one that would not affect the rest of the town.
“This is already built into your health insurance for ambulance service,” Mr. Hintze said of the third-party billing option.
While he supports the Riverside revitalization efforts — part of the plan calls for a 97-room hotel, affordable apartments for people over age 55 and an adult care nursing home — the ambulance district could see an increase in calls of “15 to 20 percent,” Mr. Hintze said.
The planned indoor gym and swimming pool under construction at Suffolk Community College’s Northampton campus could increase sports-related injuries the ambulance company responds to by about 5 percent, he said. The FNVA already responds to a lot of calls from the three clinics in the county center (Veterans Administration, health and methadone) and most of those people do not pay taxes to the district, he said.
Mr. Hintze said he approached the Southampton Town Board, under a prior administration, with three options several years ago to make the ambulance service more affordable. All three were rejected.
One proposal called for putting Advanced Life Support, the highest level of ambulance service, into the town’s Public Service budget instead of the ambulance budget. The second proposal was to merge the four ambulance districts into one. The final proposal was third-party billing, which the ambulance corps had about 20 years ago before the town stopped it, Mr. Hintze said.
Former Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association president Vince Taldone was among those in attendance to support the billing.
Mr. Taldone said that while the Riverside revitalization will increase ambulance calls, it will also help the ambulance corp by increasing the tax base and bringing more young people into the district.
He said the civic association will support Mr. Hintze if he takes the request to the current Town Board.
Former FNVA chief Susan Tocci said it was a “sad day” when Southampton Town forced the ambulance corps to stop third-party billing, which was apparently done after complaints from representatives of fire districts that provide ambulance service.
Southampton Councilman John Bouvier, the only town official in attendance Wednesday, said this is the first he’d heard of the issue, but he promised to look into it.
Mr. Hintze said he hoped to meet with Supervisor Jay Schneiderman first before going before the Town Board.
Photo Caption: Ron Hintze, a board member for the Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance, answers questions Wednesday night at a civic meeting in Flanders. (Credit: Tim Gannon)