Members of the town board at its Nov. 6 meeting. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps objects to the town using medical billing revenues to cover regular maintenance and repair of ambulance district equipment, RVAC president Keith Lewin said during last week’s town board budget hearing.

Lewin aired his complaint publicly during the hearing on the proposed 2020 operating budget Wednesday afternoon. He said he had met privately with board members to register his complaint and urge the board to use the town’s capital reserve fund for any repair and maintenance expenses that cannot be covered by its regular operating budget.

Deputy Supervisor Catherine Kent, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith last week, said the meetings board members had with the ambulance corps officer were “actually helpful.”

“I would have gladly met at a work session if allowed,” Lewin said. “But, anyway, my understanding is, based on conversations with board members, that the things we discussed in our private meetings were approved by the majority,” Lewin said.

Regular maintenance and repair of equipment is the obligation of the ambulance district, not the ambulance corps, Lewin said.

The Riverhead Ambulance District is a special taxing district that encompasses most of the town’s legal territory — excluding the portions of the Wading River Fire District and the Manorville Ambulance District that lie within the Town of Riverhead. The town board is the governing body of the ambulance district.

Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps Inc., a nonprofit corporation established in 1978, provides emergency medical services to the Riverhead Ambulance District pursuant to a contract between the district and the corps. The current contract, effective Jan. 1, 2015, is in the fourth year of its five-year term, which ends Dec. 31, 2020.

The current contract for the first time requires the ambulance corps to invoice patients for emergency medical services related to motor vehicle accidents.

The contract requires 20% of net medical billing revenues to be set aside by the ambulance district in a “capital project reserve account for improvement of existing facilities or construction of new facilities.”

The balance of the net medical billing revenues — amounts collected less billing costs — is retained by the ambulance district and, under the contract, “shall be applied” to the ambulance district budget, to offset the district’s tax burden.

“The town has an extremely large capital reserve fund — in excess of $500,000, which is more appropriate to pull money from when you have an unexpected large expense,” Lewin said last week. “Billing money shouldn’t be used for this, which should be part of normal maintenance, he said, adding, “The repeater system is old and still needs work.”

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio also advocated increasing the ambulance district budget by $30,000 to fund paid staff for RVAC’s station in Jamesport. The money for that expense could come out of the town’s fund balance, she said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard proposed using $135,000 of the capital reserve fund to pay the cost of hiring an additional code enforcement officer, a part-time clerk for the code enforcement division and a part-time paralegal to assist the town attorney’s office with court actions brought in State Supreme Court for town code violations. If approved by the board, there would be two additional code enforcement officers hired in 2020, since the supervisor’s tentative budget included funds for hiring one new code enforcement officer.

No one else spoke at the budget hearing. The record was left open for written comments until close of business on Friday, Nov. 15.

Under state law, the town board is required to adopt a final budget on or before Nov. 20. Should the town board fail to adopt a budget, the preliminary budget — the budget that was the subject of the Nov. 6 public hearing — becomes the final budget by operation of law.

In other action at the meeting, the town board:

  • Authorized the town attorney to bring an action in State Supreme Court against the owners, tenants and occupants of a single-family house at 1050 Harrison Avenue for alleged use in violation of the town code and state fire code;
  • Hired two part-time police officers, Rachel Doroski and Joseph Trivelli, and placed them on a leave of absence to attend the Suffolk County Police Academy;
  • Made the appointment of temporary assistant town engineer Ken Testa full-time. Testa, long-time town engineer who retired in July 2016, was hired on a part-time temporary basis last month. Assistant town engineer Ernesto Rosini is leaving his position as of Nov. 15;
  • Hired Dionne Marshak in the position of personnel assistant at an annual salary of $60,000;
  • Hired David Bonne to the position of wastewater treatment plant operator trainee at an annual salary of $49,493.81;
  • Approved a contract with the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association for 2019;
  • Authorized a $25,000 contract with Studio A/B Architects for the conversion of the Benjamin barn at East End to a ceramics studio, with the work to be funded by a $250,000 grant from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York;
  • Appointed Michael Osip to the Riverhead Town Veterans Advisory Committee;
  • Accepted a $1,000 donation from The Titan Run for the recreation trail at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.