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3 years after starting, N.Y. ambulance service expands operations

The City of Auburn Ambulance has approved a one-year agreement to provide ALS to a neighboring town


Auburn Ambulance A5.

City of Auburn Ambulance/Facebook

By Robert Harding
The Citizen

AUBURN, N.Y. — Three years after Auburn City Ambulance commenced operations, the agency is expanding to a neighboring town.

The Auburn City Council on Thursday approved a one-year agreement between Auburn City Ambulance and the town of Owasco. The town will pay $250,000 for advanced life support ambulance service and a city ambulance will be housed at the Owasco Fire Department from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Emergency and non-emergency services will be provided 24 hours a day.

The Owasco Fire Department will continue to provide basic life support service, extrication service and patient lifting assistance.

A separate agreement with the Owasco Fire District was approved to keep the ambulance at the fire station. The fire district or the town will be responsible for any costs associated with housing the ambulance.

Kezia Sullivan, director of operations for Auburn City Ambulance, told The Citizen that the Owasco Fire Department and town leaders initiated discussions with the city about ambulance service. A focal point of those conversations was the town’s desire to have an ambulance housed at the fire department.

Owasco Supervisor Ed Wagner confirmed that was a priority for the town because it helps reduce response times. He said in a phone interview the town explored working with other ambulance services, but either the agencies weren’t interested or they did not want to place an ambulance at the Owasco Fire Department.

“Nobody could provide the quality of service and the response time the city could offer at the rate that was available,” Wagner said. “The money wasn’t even the issue. It was the quality of the response and having them housed at our firehouse.”

The agreement with Owasco won’t affect Auburn City Ambulance’s day-to-day operations and won’t require additional resources. Sullivan explained the agency has four ambulances, so the only change is the location of one of the vehicles. If that ambulance is needed in the city, she said, it will respond to calls in Auburn.

The expansion is part of Auburn City Ambulance’s growing reach after AMR’s exit from Cayuga County. The agency, which responded to 7,358 calls in 2023, is projected to respond to nearly 10,000 calls this year.

“Because of that, it makes more sense operationally to have the vehicles physically distributed within the geographic area instead of having all four advanced life support ambulances all in one location,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to reduce response times if you separate your resources geographically.”

Auburn City Manager Jeff Dygert answered questions at the council meeting before councilors considered the resolutions. He confirmed that Auburn City Ambulance is already responding to calls in Owasco and there is adequate staffing to meet the needs of the city and town.

Dygert, who spearheaded the establishment of the city-run ambulance service in 2021, told The Citizen that emergency medical services “are getting more and more difficult.” He thinks it’s an opportunity for municipalities to find better ways of providing emergency services.

The arrangement with Owasco is an example.

“It’s a really big step and I’m sure there will be criticisms of it, but I think, ultimately, it’s a positive step in the right direction,” said Dygert, who added the city is open to conversations with other communities.

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