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Town of Watertown Ambulance Service temporarily closes Route 3 station

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The town of Watertown Ambulance Service has had to do some reshuffling since it lost one vehicle to old age and purchased a replacement.

Recently, the ambulance service temporarily closed its original location on Route 3 — adjacent to Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services property — after its 17-year-old ambulance needed $3,000 in repairs and was taken off the road, said David C. Roof, TWAS president.

To replace that rig, the ambulance service bought a 2008 vehicle that will be in use after it gets painted and gets the necessary lettering, Mr. Roof said. He did not disclose the price paid for the vehicle.

Once the 2008 rig is ready, the service’s remaining ambulance, a 1995 model, will be moved to the Route 3 location, where it will be used during major calls, Mr. Roof said. However, that location will not be staffed, he said.

The 2008 vehicle will be housed in the new main office, a larger building on Route 11 that the ambulance service renovated and began using a few months ago, Mr. Roof said.

Plans are in the works to purchase a third ambulance next year; that vehicle also will also run out of the main office in the former Grenadier Construction Corp. building at 18535 Route 11, which the service leases from William F. Caprara and his family.

The ambulance service is formulating plans to continue to use the Route 3 location. It intends to take over the lease of that building as soon as the town of Watertown Fire Department vacates the property and opens a station at Route 12F and County Route 202 early next year, Mr. Roof said. The Fire Department leases the Route 3 property from BOCES.

“It’s really, really coming into shape,” Mr. Roof said.

He said he believes the Route 3 location will be needed because calls will continue to increase on the western side of the town once large apartment complexes under construction on County Route 202 and behind the Target store on Route 3 are finished in 2013. The Route 3 station also has served Salmon Run Mall and numerous other retail businesses on that side of town.

TWAS needs the Washington Street site to cover Samaritan Medical Center’s 288-bed Samaritan Summit Village, which will open on Route 11 early next year, and other areas to the south of the city, Mr. Roof said. The squad will provide 24-hour service for the assisted-living and skilled-nursing facility, he said.

The nonprofit ambulance service has served town of Watertown residents since branching off from the Fire Department in 2008.

Under a three-year contract that expires in December 2014, the town of Watertown is paying TWAS $150,000 per year for the service. Providing round-the-clock service 365 days a year, members respond to 650 to 700 calls a year.

In September, Mr. Roof accused competing Guilfoyle Emergency Medical Service, a for-profit company, of stealing about 25 percent of the nonprofit service’s calls, causing TWAS to lose crucial revenue. Guilfoyle denied the claim.

This summer, the ambulance service began billing residents, even though it receives the financial aid from the town. Mr. Roof said the change was caused by an increase in unpaid bills, which he attributed to some private health insurance companies’ refusal to cover ambulance trips and some residents’ higher deductibles or inability to pay for insurance.

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