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State Audit Critical of Orchard Park Fire District | News

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State Audit Critical of Orchard Park Fire District
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ORCHARD PARK, NY - The Orchard Park Fire District is blasted in a new state audit for improperly creating and subsidizing a private emergency medical service.

The 45-page audit by the New York State Comptroller's Office focused on the creation of a not-for-profit corporation known as Orchard Park Fire District-EMS, Inc.

The audit concluded that the O.P. Fire District did not have the authority to finance the formation and operation of an emergency medical services operation. 

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said "this situation serves as an example to other fire districts statewide as the way not to do public safety.

According to the audit, the fire district made more than $1.3 million in cash and assets available to the EMS service of which it had no authority to create or fund.

The report is also critical of the Orchard Park fire district for improperly granting service credit to volunteer firefighters for driving ambulances for the not-for-profit.

The value of fire district assets given, loaned or leased is:

Vehicles- $651,037
Building- $407,672
Loans- $200,000
Resident Co Pays- $57,997
Miscellaneous Costs- $34,582
Total- $1,351,288

DiNapoli's auditors called on the fire district to stop subsidizing the not-for-profit.

Click here to see the entire Orchard Park Fire District Ambulance Service Audit done by the NYS Comptroller. 

Dan Neaverth, Jr., Orchard Park Fire District Chief, says he disputes any laws were broken.

Dan Neaverth, Jr., Orchard Park Fire District Chief, says he disputes any laws were broken.

"The fire commissioners who started this followed the letter of the law, followed the case law, and on top of that, they also had an Attorney General ruling," said Neaverth.  "So I'm not sure what other people are looking at, but we made it very clear in the argument exactly what we did, and what laws allow us to do that."

He says the not-for-profit service was created in 2009 after district officials decided they were not satisfied the response times of Rural Metro.

Neaverth says since the new system was put into place, response time has gone down from 11 minutes to three minutes, while saving taxpayers money.

"As chief of the department, my primary responsibility is to the people that we respond to," said Neaverth.  "And we are doing it better in Orchard Park than anywhere else."

Michael Chelus, attorney for Orchard Park's Fire District says the district never subsidized the emergency medical service. 

"There was definitely no subsidizing of any kind," said Chelus.  "The EMS is a separate not for profit corporation that generates its own revenue by billing for service that they actually provide."

Chelus says the fire district did give the service a loan, but it has since been repaid with interest.

"We welcome {state auditors} looking at it in terms of we're starting a new innovative way to resolve a significant problem, so that does mean that there can and should be adjustments along the way, absolutely," said Chelus.

 

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