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10/12/11 11:28pm

PETER BOODY PHOTO | From left, Glenn Waddington, Jim Dougherty and Peter Reich talk with Joy Bausman about the ambulance squad’s first town budget..

Red Cross ambulance volunteer Ben Jones told the Town Board Tuesday that “the real cost down the line” to run the private, all-volunteer squad after it becomes a town department January 1 will be about $200,000 a year when the salaries of a paid manager and perhaps an assistant manager, a Length of Service Awards Program (LOSAP) for volunteers and capital costs for ambulances and the squad’s building are counted.

“Ignoring the long-term costs of this I think would be a big mistake,” said Mr. Jones, the squad’s first paramedic in 1986 and a key player in the organization for many years.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty’s 2012 preliminary municipal budget proposal calls for spending $59,350 to run the squad, not including town insurance coverage. All four Town Board members argued Tuesday for a higher number that would reflect upcoming expenses as the squad loses its longtime volunteer and unpaid CEO, Joyce Bausman.

Mr. Jones, nodding to Ms. Bausman beside him, told the board: “You have all the energy, all the enthusiasm, all the drive right here.” It seemed to him, he said, that a full-time person would be needed “totally devoted to this effort … Nobody could look at her work and think that it could be done on a volunteer basis.”

“Put a line in there” for an incoming paid manager, asserted Councilman Glenn Waddington, one of Mr. Dougherty’s challengers for the supervisor post this fall, “to be realistic and up-front with our constituents” and give them “an idea what it will cost us down the road.”

“I don’t have that idea yet,” Mr. Dougherty replied.

Defending his proposal, the supervisor said he was being careful to keep the costs down. He noted that Ms. Bausman had agreed to stay on into the first year of town operation. He also said private donations probably would help pay for the squad as they always have.

“I feel equally strongly,” Mr. Dougherty said after Ms. Bausman had argued that the town had to hire a qualified person to prepare for taking over her duties, “we should do an ‘as is’ transaction as of December 31.” That’s when the town will acquire the unpaid squad and all its assets from the American Red Cross under an agreement jointly announced in September by the supervisor and the squad and approved by the Town Board late last month. Mr. Dougherty had said the national organization wanted to get out of the ambulance business — Shelter Island’s is the only squad it operates — and focus on its mission, disaster relief.

Ms. Bausman, a registered nurse and longtime volunteer with the squad — she served as its board chairman for a time beginning in 1976 — said she initially intended to retire from the job six months after the town takeover but had agreed to work further into 2012. But “I’m not here ‘til I’m in my coffin,” she said.

Of his budget, Mr. Dougherty said, “I thought we had it structured nicely and I don’t want to have to fall off the wagon.” He said he had worked with Ms. Bausman to determine the squad’s costs and those were the numbers that he had used in developing the budget.

“I’ve never heard so much scuttlebutt at the post office, the IGA and the ferries” from people who were worried that the town had taken on more than it had bargained for, Mr. Dougherty said. “People are saying ‘Watch out. You’re being taken to the cleaner,’” he told board members.

“I haven’t heard any of that,” responded Councilman Ed Brown. Residents understood the squad was “a vital asset,” he said, and they “want to see some reality” in the cost estimates. He asked Ms. Bausman to submit figures for what the town should expect to pay for a manager-trainee in the coming year. The board must finalize the town budget in the coming weeks to schedule it for a public hearing before adopting a spending plan in November.

“I’m persuaded we’re going to need somebody” to work with Ms. Bausman, commented Councilwoman Chris Lewis. “There has to be a number of some kind in there” for that person’s pay.

Mr. Dougherty, a lawyer and former supermarket chain CEO in private life, said he had been preparing budgets for nearly half a century and the goal in the corporate world was always to keep the numbers to “an irreducible minimum” because otherwise higher figures become inevitable. “It won’t help the process” to add expenses to the budget now, he argued. “Let’s grow into a solution.” He argued it was normal procedure to have to amend the town budget during the year.

“I don’t like budget planning to amend it,” Councilman Peter Reich said during the lengthy discussion.

Noting that the squad always had been funded entirely by private donations, Mr. Dougherty said, “I think we have a good shot” at continuing to receive private funding. The town “should keep the spirit of the first-rate volunteerism and we can continue to enjoy very, very generous support.”

09/21/11 10:38pm

Shelter Island’s ambulance corps, the only one in the country operated under the auspices of the national American Red Cross, will be turned over to the Town of Shelter Island on January 1, 2012 and operated as a town-owned agency, it was announced Wednesday morning by Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty and the Red Cross Shelter Island Chapter.

The town will acquire the squad’s Manwaring Road garage and office, three ambulances, all medical equipment and supplies as well as an existing cash fund balance that is restricted to capital expenditures. Supervisor Dougherty said the fund “seems close to $200,000” but the number was “unconfirmed.”

The town will take over the squad’s operation, which Mr. Dougherty said always has been funded by donations. He estimated its annual budget at about $90,000 to $100,000 and said he hoped fund-raising would continue to be a revenue source. He likened the arrangement to the library, which receives taxpayer funding through the Shelter Island School District but also raises funds through donations.

Mr. Dougherty said he would be meeting with the ambulance corps Chief Executive Officer Joy Bausman and other squad officials to set a departmental budget to be included in the town’s 2012 budget.

The supervisor will be submitting a preliminary town budget proposal on September 30. He and the Town Board will be holding special meetings in October to finalize the budget in time for a public hearing in November.

Mr. Doughtery has been warning at Town Board meetings all year that the 2012 municipal budget would be a challenge because of rising costs and declining revenues. The state’s new 2-percent cap on any property tax increases, he has said, has complicated the challenge.

Of the ambulance squad’s transition into operation as a town agency, “There will be not one minute’s interruption of the emergency medical ambulance service we have come to rely on,” Mr. Dougherty is quoted as saying in the press announcement released by his office Wednesday. “While this comes at a difficult time economically, with significant financial burdens which we are currently tackling, the town is prepared to answer this call from the Red Cross.”

He said officials of the squad had approached the town in October 2010, “with the motivation coming from the national office,” to discuss a town takeover. If the squad had to find a new home, he said, it preferred to find it with the town. He said “very discrete” talks had been underway ever since then. Ms. Bausman could not be reached Wednesday morning for comment. She is quoted in the announcement from the supervisor’s office as saying, “Our team of ambulance volunteers will continue to provide prompt pre-hospital emergency care. We are delighted that the town is stepping in and I am confident that we will have a smooth transition.”

The turnover is “in response to the reorganization and consolidation programs of the National American Red Cross … and at the request of the Shelter Island Chapter,” according to Wednesday’s press announcement.

The Island’s only local ambulance corps was founded in 1931 by local residents under a charter issued by the National Red Cross honorary president, Herbert Hoover. It has about 25 to 30 volunteers and no paid officers or staff.