The Ocean View Town Council voted unanimously this week to approve the municipal-wide discount ambulance subscription service agreement.
The agreement requires businesses and property owners to pay a flat rate of $35 per year to the Millville Volunteer Fire Company (MVFC) to help pay for ambulance service, for a period of three years.
Outside of the subscription service they have with Ocean View and Millville (approved in September), MVFC still has their $50 subscription plan for anyone outside of the municipality.
The agreement provides that any resident who is transported by MVFC ambulance would have their insurance billed first, and the MVFC wouldn’t charge the patient any remaining balance if the family has an ambulance service subscription.
Ocean View resident Gary Cordier asked to have this stipulation clarified, giving the example of a houseguest needing to be transported to the ambulance from his home versus a local business.
Town Manager Dianne Vogel said that if a medical emergency arose in a resident’s home, the houseguest’s transportation cost would be covered, however if that houseguest had a medical emergency outside of the home (for instance, at a local business) the cost would not be covered by the fee.
Cordier also called attention to the department’s “checkered past,” suggestion that “maybe that isn’t the best way to do it,” calling attention to the conclusion of a year-long investigation, after which the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts confirmed there had been an embezzlement of more than $190,000 in fire company funds, allegedly by the MVFC’s now-former treasurer.
Justin Oakley was arrested in May of 2016 on charges of Theft Over $100,000 and 100 counts of Falsifying Business Records.
Cordier also asked if voting on an agreement was the best course of action, rather than an ordinance was the best course of action.
Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader said he didn’t seen an issue with the decision not being made with the passing of an ordinance, as the Town has the authority under own charter to enter into contracts with third parties.
He also noted that nearby municipalities, including Fenwick, Bethany, and South Bethany, along with Sea Colony, all have similar agreements with emergency services that have been in effect for a number of years.
Resident Joseph Capone submitted a letter of concern to council related to the agreement, calling for an enforcement provision and deadline for the departments responsibilities, addressing procedure for fee disputes, and insurance coverage.
He also noted that in January, he wrote to Mayor Walter Curran about his concerns related to the proposed agreement, and the lack of due diligence.
“Since I wrote those words, the Town has learned much about the extremely poor way in which the MVFC was managed fiscally. I am pleased to see that the Town is at least trying to take steps to protect its money — which as we all well know — is our money, the taxpayers, which you hold in trust and are obligated to protect.”
Curran said MCFC is now moving down “that right road” with the oversight of the State’s Fire Marshal’s office.
Councilman Frank Twardzik said he was in favor of the agreement, noting that only about 30 percent of the people respond when the fire company does their annual fund drive.
“That to me is an astonishing number, and that’s the main reason I’m voting for this.”
Council voted 5-0 to approve the agreement.
In other Town news:
• Council voted 5-0 to reallocate Homecoming funds to the Town’s Concerts in the Park and Cops & Goblins event. Council had discussed having the Town give up the event that was revitalized by the Ocean View Historical Society a number of years ago, as it required a great deal of Town money and staff time to organize and run.
• The Town is currently advertising for a new finance director, as current director Lee Brubaker announced his retirement from the town. As of the Town’s Nov. 8 meeting, 20 resumes for the position had been received. Vogel said she hopes to have a replacement chosen by the end of the year.
“You’ve done a fantastic job,” praised Curran of Brubaker.
• Ocean View Police Captain Heath Hall said the department’s second annual Cops and Goblins event was deemed a huge success, with an estimated 800 persons attending.