The Mid-Hudson Ambulance district has yet again held a non-publicized meeting. This un-filmed, un-announced meeting took place on Thursday, November 17th, with no notice given to elected officials or to the public. The tax district, which has increased taxes by 31% in two years, operates with little accountability or openness. Such closed-door meetings may be tolerated in Albany or Washington D.C., but here in Ossining elected officials account to the people.
As if this weren’t enough, there are still unanswered questions from OVAC’s last covert meeting in October. The Town Board has not even discussed the Mid-Hudson Ambulance Tax District budget item. OVAC and the Town Board have no intention of addressing the following concerns, but their indifference wont make the problems disappear.
Firstly, OVAC, the vendor for the district, has serious internal management issues that have not been addressed. Officials have been aware of this situation for over a year. Employees of the Ambulance Corp. have written letters to officials detailing these issues and warning of their consequences, yet nothing has been done. Employees of the district broke their public silence and even spoke out about these issues at the meeting, but, unfortunately, no cameras were there to record the comments. This issue will persist and will present an even larger problem until formally dealt with in a proper and open manner.
Last year the Town Supervisor unilaterally gave the tax District a Town owned car without formal Town Board approval or resolution uncompensated. The claim was this car was “loaned” and was to be paid for through a separate fundraiser sometime in the future. This time never came and for the second year in a row the district will operate this car at the Town taxpayer’s expense. It should be also noted that this District and car serve two other municipalities. The insurance for the vehicle is still under the Town only, meaning if something serious happens with this car in one of the other two municipalities they, or the Mid-Hudson Ambulance Tax District, are not be liable; only the Town is. I seem to be the only person that has an issue with this thus far. The passivity of Town officials, who are elected to protect and properly manage Town assets, is alarming. They have not uttered a word about this potentially serious and financially reckless matter.
Thirdly is the issue of the vendor’s, OVAC’s, internal finances. OVAC originally proposed increasing expenditures 10% but have to reduce that amount to fit within the 2% tax cap. How will they manage this drop? How is it affecting their organization? The Town Board has not met with OVAC personnel in over a year. Is this a way to conduct budget meetings? As an elected official I am seriously supposed to just OK a tax district budget without knowing the financial implication it will have on our vender OVAC? I do not mindlessly vote on these issues, and if I do not have the proper data or reason I will simply vote against it. In addition, I have asked OVAC for internal financial information over a year ago and I have never received any response for any of the financial information I requested.
At the end of the day the problems of OVAC’s finances, of the internal personnel issues, and of the need to recover the monetary use of the Town Outside’s real property are being kicked down the road for another board to deal with. We need solutions, not dithering, from our elected officials. And if this is too much to ask, the Town Board should at least open the doors to Mid-Hudson Tax District meetings so that more responsible residents can fill the leadership void in Ossining.