Ambulance agency withdraws service from NY town

Officials were in negotiations over a new contract with the new owners of the agency when they received a termination letter

By Rick Pfeiffer
The Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA, N.Y. — Hours before a meeting to discuss extending a contract for ambulance service in the Town of Niagara, Supervisor Lee Wallace said he received a letter from the new owner of Rural Metro Ambulance saying the company was pulling its services out of the town.

“We had started negotiations with the old Rural Metro in June (on a new contract for ambulance services),” Wallace said Tuesday night. “And after AMR took over Rural Metro they set a meeting with us for 1 p.m. Tuesday. That morning, when I walked into the office I got a termination letter (from AMR).”

The letter, dated July 14, and signed by AMR Regional Director Thomas Maxian, told Wallace that the company was exercising a “termination option” in its contract with the town. The letter advised Wallace that AMR would provide ambulance service for only another 30 days.

“We will continue to serve you to the best of our ability during the 30 days,” Maxian wrote. “And if you are interested, we will help you identify a new ambulance service provider.”

Sources tell the Gazette that the Town of Niagara is not alone in receiving a termination notice from AMR. Every volunteer fire company in Niagara County was also notified of the company’s decision.

The Gazette was told fire companies across the county held emergency meetings Tuesday night to discuss the impact of the decision. Town of Niagara Police Chief James Suitor said Rural Metro has averaged 800 calls a year in the town of 10,000 residents.

“AMR will tell you they’re doing this to better serve people,” Wallace said. “But they’re only going to (service) Buffalo and Niagara Falls. This all about money.

As Wallace announced AMR’s decision at a town board meeting, someone in the audience yelled, “It’s no loss.”

Rural Metro had faced withering criticism recently in Buffalo for slow response times. City officials had discussed terminating their contract with the ambulance service, but decided to wait to see if the new owners could address those issues.

The Niagara Town board unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the declaration of a “public safety emergency” in the town. The resolution also seeks the assistance of the New York State Department of Health in helping the town find a new ambulance service.

“This is, I guess legal to do,” Wallace said. “We are going to diligently look to find someone to take over these services.”

In response to a question from a resident about whether there will be ambulances in the town after 30 days, Wallace said, “I’m fairly certain there are people who care about this area, unlike Rural Metro, and they will come to our aid.”

Copyright 2016 the Niagara Gazette

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