By JIM KEVLIN
COOPERSTOWN – Owners Margaret McGown and Mark Zeek announced the sale of Cooperstown Medical Transport to AMR (American Medical Response), which employs 28,000 emergency medical personnel in 40 states and Washington, D.C.
An asset- purchase agreement was signed Tuesday, Jan. 8, and the sale is expected to be complete by the end of March, pending final approval by the Susquehanna Regional EMS Council, covering Chenango County, and the Adirondack/Appalachian EMS council, which covers Otsego and Delaware counties.
In a press release, AMR said it will transition employees andcustomers to the new entity between now and then.
“Mark and I have lived the American Dream,” said McGown in announcing the sale of the three-county enterprise that began as one ambulance the couple bought for $900 in 1980 from Jim Dow, the Cooperstown funeral director.
When the sale occurred, CMT, as it’s generally known, was administering the operation of 13 ambulances (down from a peak of 17) from the main four-bay complex in Davenport, where administration and maintenance is also based.
CMT also has stations in Delhi, Bainbridge and Norwich, and a post (a single-bay garage) that is manned daily in Stamford.
From a staff of two – at first, the couple staffed the operation themselves – CMT as of today employed 95 EMTs and other employees.
In 1980, the first year, CMT made 110 calls; in 2018, that had risen to 8,241 calls.
AMR was founded in 1992 when several regional ambulance providers consolidated into a single company, prompted by changes in health-care reimbursement, new technology and the managed-care plans, all requiring a larger provider network, according to the its website.
In 1997, it merged with Med Trans, creating the largest ambulance service provider in the U.S.
The CMT owners said the decision to sell wasn’t made overnight; AMR first expressed interest in acquiring the local company a decade ago.
McGown was working as a social worker at Bassett when she met Zeek, a New Jersey native who was doing alternative service at Bassett during the Vietnam War.
What became CMT had its roots at Bassett Hospital, which had an ambulance staffed by interns in the 1960s, the owners recounted in an interview today. By the end of the decade, the Cooperstown Volunteer Fire Department assumed operation of the ambulance and began training its own EMTs.
However, Bassett still had transportation needs, and bought a 1970 Ford van to use as what was termed termed a “medical coach.”
Drivers were members of the maintenance staff, who would be called upon to drive patients back and forth to The Meadows, and to take patients home.
When Dow agreed to take over the operation, the hospital sold him the van for $1.