The Oneonta Fire District voted to dissolve as a fire district, leaving behind a Fire Protection District. The move leaves nobody without fire and ambulance protection, and eliminates a layer of government. According to Commission Chairwoman Jhona Peachin, the vote really came down to two major issues. One of the issues dealt with a billing practice that’s been going on for years.
"There was an improper billing practice going on from the City of Oneonta due to the Municipal law 204B which suggests that if you contract with a fire district for ambulance services, then the riders can’t be charged, and the City persisted in doing this even after a 1990 audit."
Town of Oneonta Town Supervisor, Robert Wood claims the Town has a separate contract with the City specifically for ambulatory services.
"Actually it’s only a fire district that is not allowed to bill. Since it’s the City of Oneonta and there’s a contract in place, they are able to bill. That’s one attorney and 2 commissioner’s opinion."
Johna Peachin says there are two separate contracts in place. One for fire coverage, and another for ambulance services. Part of her argument lies in the discrepancy in the amount being paid for ambulance services. Right now the Town only pays $24,000 for ambulance services and one point one million dollars for fire coverage.
"Rather than splitting the contracts equally, they just set up a contract with the town for providing ambulance services that didn’t cover the cost. They left the cost for providing the ambulance services on the fire district, which therefore made it a sham contract."
But again the Town Supervisor claims the billing practices are being done properly.
"The State has reviewed, the auditors have reviewed, and they have had no problem with it. Primarily I think it’s because of that fact that, although it’s the same people doing the same job, they are compensated for the cost of the EMT services through the ambulance billing."