Beware Spa City's budding ambulance business
The ambulance business can be good — witness the Saratoga Springs Fire Department generating $726,764 from the one it started up in February. But it can also be bad — witness the private Saratoga Emergency Medical Services going bust in February after more than a decade serving the community.
So far, so good for the city-run service, but already there’s cause for concern in the department’s request to hire two additional firefighters.
At a cost, including benefits, of $55,000 apiece, new firefighters aren’t cheap. And they don’t get paid less with every year of additional experience, but more. And the cost of their benefits (pension and health insurance, largely) also keep rising.
It is one thing to have existing fire personnel respond to ambulance calls during the considerable downtime they have when they’re waiting for less-frequent fire calls, but the city needs to remember: Its principal business isn’t the ambulance business.
The city has a backup service, Empire Ambulance Service — a private, for-profit “competitor” — for when the department’s ambulance and backup rig are busy, so it would seem that new firefighters aren’t really necessary. The city should resist the temptation to hire them.