Letter from Bryan LoRusso
I have been following the movements of the Board of Representatives and the 911 director over the last two years in regard to the county’s paid EMS program that the constituents of Otsego County never approved. After reading last week’s article on AllOtsego.com, I have many thoughts to share and questions to be answered.
The Board of Representatives, including prior members, has never aggressively helped fire/EMS volunteerism in Otsego County. They have never offered county-wide incentives that made a substantial difference in volunteers’ lives. To that point, I have watched regulations get jammed down volunteers’ throats while telling them they need to pay for their own courses, they need certain certifications which they must also pay for, they must have certain levels of expertise—all without any form of incentive or financial assistance to do so.
County EMS volunteerism is dwindling due to how the county treats its volunteers. Volunteerism in general is dwindling due to all of the unfunded mandates and regulations.
I agree it is nice to have a certain level of training in the ambulance if your health is at jeopardy. But let me ask, where does this county EMS program end? Are we going to eventually request a surgeon be in these rigs as well? We don’t even have the staff or beds in the local hospitals to treat people, yet regulations are continually being pounded into volunteers, making them pay for it—all without any form of thank you or incentive—just to get someone from one place to another, in this case a hospital.
Where are we going from here, when the funding for this program runs dry at the end of 2023? How did the county plan on funding a multimillion-dollar EMS service? How do they justify four ambulances, 16 employees (10 part timers) and think they are going to offset the 17 volunteer houses that already exist in Otsego County? How can the county justify this additional spending when volunteer and paid ambulance services are all showing up on the same calls (this has been happening for months)? It is very apparent at this juncture that the board has managed to put the county and its taxpayers in quite the dilemma.
I find it very concerning that the county reps are not reigning in or demanding accountability for where we are going with this program as it appears to be run and managed by Mr. Wilber. To be honest, this is very reminiscent of the county officials thinking they could afford to build an old-age home (The Manor) and then realizing they were in way over their heads. I truly believe you have another Manor on your hands, and Mr. Wilber doesn’t have the answers going forward. If he did, the answers would be public, you would provide budgets and strategic plans to constituents going forward, and you would prove to taxpayers you don’t intend to tax them and bill them.
E-mails including many of the same concerns were sent to board members by at least one fire chief. Instead of addressing the issue at hand immediately, Mr. Wilber’s response was to tell that individual not to communicate the issues in writing. In fact, he scolded them for doing so.
I request the county board members insert themselves into this pet project of Mr. Wilber’s and demand answers before allowing the program to continue. I request that Board members individually talk to their volunteer houses—I am quite certain if the board spent the money on incentives and advertising, programs for youth volunteers, tax incentives, and training stipends, we would not be having this conversation.
In closing, I am asking the Board of Representatives to pull in the reins and support our volunteers instead of creating more tax burdens on its constituents.