Lockport to hire private ambulance firm Sept. 3 - The Buffalo News

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Lockport to hire private ambulance firm Sept. 3

LOCKPORT – Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said Thursday that the Common Council will vote at its next meeting Sept. 3 on an agreement with one of the two private ambulance firms licensed in Niagara County to begin supplying service in the City of Lockport as of Sept. 15.

The city isn’t issuing a formal request for proposals because the city won’t be paying either Rural/Metro Medical Services or Twin City Ambulance, the two contenders for the role. The companies will make their money by billing those who are transported in their ambulances.

The city has been doing that for years, with ambulance revenues sometimes reaching $600,000 a year.

However, the city is dropping the service because the administration believes it contributes to Fire Department overtime, a major expense which auditors from the State Comptroller’s Office say must be reduced.

As a condition of obtaining hoped-for emergency borrowing authority contained in a bill on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s desk, the city has had to agree to give the Comptroller’s Office veto power over its budgets for the next decade.

McCaffrey said at a news conference Wednesday, when the state released its second highly negative audit of the city’s finances in the past eight months, that the ambulance service costs about $1 million a year.

She previously said that the city’s two ambulances are in need of replacement, which would cost the city about $300,000 if it stayed in the rescue squad business.

Meanwhile, audience members at Wednesday night’s Common Council meeting ridiculed a deal with developer David L. Ulrich to lease him 15 spaces in the city’s new parking lot at Main and Pine streets for the next 12 years for $300 a year.

It’s the same price the city charged Ulrich in a 1997 deal, which was to last 20 years, for 100 spaces in the old parking ramp at the same location. The city had to close the ramp in 2006 because of crumbling concrete, and finally demolished it last year. The ramp’s unavailability meant Ulrich didn’t get the parking he bargained for.

The new 44-space parking lot adjoins an Ulrich-owned building that houses his development company and Mills Jewelers, an Ulrich tenant.

Speakers said the low price shows the city isn’t serious about maximizing revenue despite its fiscal crisis. Russell Bruning of Trowbridge Street said, “We can’t pay our firefighters and ambulance crews, and you’re renting 15 spaces for $300? We need to be charging for all the spaces. We need to be charging more than $300. That’s cheap as dirt.”

City Planning and Development Director R. Charles Bell said, “It’s a modest payment, admittedly, but that’s what (Ulrich) committed to at the outset.”

“It’s really nothing more than an extension of the original lease,” said Ulrich, adding that the spaces are primarily for Mills customers. Ulrich said he demanded parking rights 17 years ago “as a condition of me buying buildings on Main Street that were vacant. I wasn’t going to buy a building without parking.”

McCaffrey said the parking spaces on the Main Street side of the new lot will have a two-hour time limit, while those on the Pine Street side of the two-level lot will have a four-hour limit to benefit tourists.

Meanwhile, Ulrich said a onetime municipal parking lot he bought at Walnut and Locust streets is fenced off for “renovation.” He said he didn’t know how long that would take, but he said he has no development plans at this time.

Alderman Patrick W. Schrader said the restricted parking might harm the Palace Theatre when it offers stage shows. Ulrich said he’s already worked that out: “We’ll open the gate when the Palace needs the parking.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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