HIGHTSTOWN: Borough gives nod to EMS deal with East Windsor
Posted On: Jun 14, 2010
HIGHTSTOWN: Borough gives nod to EMS deal with East Windsor
Three-year contract will save money compared to Robbinsville, Cranbury bids
By Elaine Leahy, Special Writer
Posted: Friday, June 11, 2010 1:07 AM EDT
HIGHTSTOWN — The borough will not renew its emergency medical services contract with Robbinsville, instead opting to go with lower-cost services from East Windsor.
The Borough Council on Monday approved a three-year shared-services agreement with East Windsor that will cost $30,000 annually, with a pro-rated cost this year. That annual payment represents a $25,000 savings over the most recent offer from Robbinsville and a $64,000 savings from what was paid to Robbinsville last year.
It also is $2,500 less than an offer made by Cranbury. And both Cranbury and Robbinsville offered fewer hours of coverage than East Windsor.
Nonetheless, council President Larry Quattrone favored the Cranbury deal. And Mayor Bob Patten, who forged the original deal with Robbinsville, urged the council to look beyond the financial implications.
”(The) economics between $30,000 and $55,000 is just about a half a cent on our tax rate,” said Mayor Patten. “It’s not economics here, folks. It’s public safety. It’s the health of people that’s more important than economics. A half a cent may not be the thing that you want to consider.”
According to a proposal dated May 12 from East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov to Mayor Patten and the Borough Council, the township would extend services provided to the township by Trenton-based Capital Health Systems.
Just last month, East Windsor changed its EMS contract from MONOC to Capital Health. Mayor Mironov said that change would result in significant cost savings for the township, and Capital Health has “... an ample fleet of ambulances, an excellent performance record and the lowest and best price for the township.
Mayor Mironov, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, said this week that the new deal with Hightstown is a “win-win” for both towns.
”The agreement addresses Hightstown’s need and will provide additional funds to East Windsor,” she said.
For the past three years, Hightstown has contracted with Robbinsville for emergency medical services with the original cost being more than $210,000 and the most recent annual cost $94,000, as levels of service were reduced. Robbinsville, which recently contracted with Capital Health, has been providing borough coverage three nights and seven days a week. Hightstown volunteers handle calls four nights a week.
Robbinsville had an ambulance stationed in the borough for a time, but it recently returned to the township as a cost-saving measure for the borough. Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried recently said a new deal would allow the return of an ambulance to the borough.
The East Windsor proposal states Capital Health System would provide emergency medical and ambulance services Mondays through Fridays for 14 hours, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. The primary ambulance is maintained in East Windsor with a secondary ambulance dispatched from Capital Health in Trenton if the first is in use.
Cranbury First Aid Squad also bid for the work, and it offered 12 hours of service per day, Mondays through Fridays, for $32,500 a year.
Though less costly than prior years, Robbinsville submitted the priciest proposal at $55,000 while offering the fewest hours of coverage per day at nine hours Mondays through Fridays.
Mayor Fried addressed the council for the second meeting in a row, stating his township’s bid is the “most responsible” because it is based on the current call volume in Hightstown. Mayor Fried said many calls originating in Hightstown are not paid for by insurance, and their bid takes into consideration the actual volume and those calls that are and are not being paid for.
”At some point, someone is going to want someone to pay that bill,” he said.
Robbinsville Fire Director John Archer, the former volunteer fire chief in Hightstown, spoke at the meeting about the issue of mutual aid — who responds to calls when the primary ambulance is already in use.
”If during that time, you do not have an ambulance here in house, you’re going to be relying solely on mutual aid for your coverage,” he said. “During the day, Hightstown doesn’t have a lot of volunteers around to respond. This is why I think the Robbinsville proposal is better than the others.”
There were apparently no representatives from East Windsor or Cranbury at the meeting.
Mayor Mironov said this week that Capital Health will dispatch a second ambulance to the area when the first one is on call as it now does for East Windsor.
At the meeting, Mayor Patten, a political ally of Mayor Fried, echoed concern over mutual aid and asked the council if it wanted to discuss the matter further before voting. The council did not.
Mr. Quattrone favored the Cranbury bid, stating at the council meeting, “East Windsor (mutual aid) coverage in Hightstown hasn’t been the greatest” whereas he feels certain Cranbury would be there to cover the borough both nights and weekends if volunteers are shorthanded or on vacation.
Mr. Bond had a different view.
”I think they (East Windsor) have stepped up to the plate, and I think the backup service from their volunteers will be good.”
Councilmen Bond, Mike Theokas and Walter Sikorski voted in favor of the East Windsor resolution. Mr. Quattrone voted against. Councilwoman Isabel McGinty did not take part in the vote as her husband is the captain of the First Aid Squad, and Councilman Dimitri Musing was not in attendance.
In addition to the $30,000 annual cost, the borough will be responsible for any Medicare co-payments billed by Capital Health.
Prior efforts for East Windsor and Hightstown to share EMS services failed, most recently in 2006.
The two towns also are talking about the township taking over police services in the borough after a two-year consultant’s study recently concluded such a move would save the borough $800,000 a year.
In approving the EMS deal with East Windsor, Councilmen Sikorski and Bond said they were looking at “the big picture.”