The city of Gardiner plans to hire an outside consultant to review the finances of its ambulance service and indefinitely delay its fire chief search until the financial concerns about the city’s ambulance fund are resolved.
In the meantime, the city will hire an interim fire chief to take over when Fire Chief Mike Minkowsky leaves at the end of the month.
City Manager Scott Morelli previously proposed restructuring the public safety departments by combining the fire and police chief roles and creating a joint deputy fire chief and code enforcement officer position, but he dropped that plan last month after facing opposition from some councilors.
The unveiling of a new plan to lower the costs of the city’s ambulance service was delayed while city staff investigated why ambulance revenues appeared lower than expected. Morelli announced Friday on Gardiner’s website that the city would be hiring a consultant to help city staff better understand the financial position of the ambulance fund.
The city said in the release that staff believe “there is a possible revenue discrepancy due to the projected revenues being based on amounts billed to patients and their insurance companies, as opposed to the amounts that insurers will ultimately pay, which is often less than what is billed.” The release also said that although there are concerns about the financial status of the fund, the city has no reason to suspect any type of fraud. The consultant will report findings about the ambulance fund and make recommendations for any changes to the City Council.
Morelli said Monday he will likely be able to announce more details Tuesday afternoon about the consultant and who will be hired as interim fire chief.
Gardiner Ambulance Service provides rescue and emergency service to Gardiner, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Litchfield, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner. It brings in revenue by billing individuals and their insurance companies for service and through fees charged to all communities, including Gardiner.
A major goal of the proposed public safety department restructuring was to lower costs for the surrounding communities also served by the ambulance service to prevent them from leaving the partnership for cheaper, private ambulance companies.
Morelli hasn’t disclosed any details about an alternative plan other than telling councilors at their Feb. 22 meeting that the fire chief position will be involved. The city is moving forward with hiring a full-time code enforcement officer and assistant planner to replace the previous code officer, David Cichowski, who resigned in November. Applications for the position are due by April 3.