The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance is going off-road.
The Riverhead Town Board — commissioners of the ambulance district — informally agreed to purchase a six-wheel drive vehicle that will enable ambulance crews to reach otherwise hard-to-access areas.
Ambulance district manager Al Gehres last week asked the Town Board to approve the purchase of a John Deere Gator.
It’s an all-terrain vehicle that’s modeled after a military vehicle and comes with a “med bed” that can be towed behind it with a patient, Mr. Gehres said.
“This will provide us with the ability to access patients in remote areas,” Mr. Gehres told the Town Board at its Aug. 4 work session.
“We can use this on beaches, and any off-road area, it can be used on the street or at large gatherings like Alive on 25,” Mr. Gehres said.
“This vehicle can go anywhere,” he added. “It’s not amphibious but it’s as close to amphibious as you can get.”
He stressed that it would be helpful on beach areas because it can ride over rocks on the shore and won’t get stuck in the sand. The Gator’s top speed is only 25 miles per hour, he said.
The Gator can be purchased off a New York State bid, which ensures the lowest price available without the town having to conduct its own bidding process, Mr. Gehres said.
The total cost, including the Gator, the med bed and a trailer to store it in, is about $21,000, he said.
“The ambulance district has underspent its budget the last couple of years, so $21,000 is not going to be a significant hit to our fund balance,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.
The town regularly puts money into a fund balance for ambulance purchases, and has just over $1 million available, he said.
• Mr. Gehres also told the board about a new plan the district is embarking on to save on the costs of new ambulances.
The practice, known as a “remount,” will take an existing ambulance and send it back to the manufacturer where it will be completely upgraded to Original Equipment Manufacturer specifications at a price that’s much less than that of a new ambulance. The remounted ambulances would have totally new engines, according to Mr. Gehres.
The cost of remounting two existing ambulances would be about $248,000, whereas the price of one new is about $205,000. The savings would be about $162,000 over the cost of buying two new ambulances, Mr. Gehres said.
The remounted ambulance will have the same lifetime warranty for the electric system as a new one, he said.
The district had planned to buy two new ambulances, which may not be needed with the remounting process, which won’t start until about October, but will take three to four months per ambulance after that, Mr. Gehres said.
The two existing ambulances would be remounted at separate times, officials said.
Town Board members agreed informally to go forward with the plan to remount two of its existing ambulances.
Photo caption: An example of the type of off-road vehicle officials hope to purchase.