Setting the Facts Straight – Poestenkill

Poestenkill Town Board Abandons their Town Residents
    — They’re not Blacklisted

In a recent inflammatory and accusatory Letter to the Editor new window icon published by the Advertiser July 1, 2015 written by Poestenkill board member, David Hass, he inaccurately blames the Sand Lake Ambulance for “blacklisting” Poestenkill and not caring about children or pregnant women.

The fact is that the same Poestenkill board member, other board members and the town supervisor voted to dissolve their town ambulance service and enter into an arrangement with Mohawk Ambulance, a commercial service, to provide coverage to their town in 2014 without increasing any resources in that area.  While this may sound good in theory, (Save money to stay under the 2% tax cap and have the Brunswick Mohawk ambulance unit cover Poestenkill) the reality is that the Mohawk Ambulance has increased their responsibility in Rensselaer County but has not increased their resources and responds from their Town of Brunswick station to all calls in Poestenkill “when resources are available”.

Rensselaer County EMS Map July 2015

Click to zoom in, Red units are Paramedic level and blue are BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulances

This same Mohawk unit that covers the town of Brunswick also responds to Grafton, Berlin, Petersburgh, Pittstown, or any area in Rensselaer county to the Vermont/Massachusetts state line if a paramedic is needed. There is no dedicated ambulance unit for the town of Poestenkill and no ambulance located in Poestenkill. The Brunswick unit responds to EMS calls in the town of Poestenkill when available.

The red units pictured are Paramedic agencies; the blue units are BLS (Basic Life Support – Non-Paramedic ambulances). As you can see there is little Paramedic coverage in rural Rensselaer County.

If there’s anyone to be upset with, it is the leadership (or lack thereof) in the town of Poestenkill. We at Sand Lake Ambulance have voiced our concerns on numerous occasions that their plan would spread resources too thin, result in lengthy response times and that the Mohawk unit may often be unavailable for calls in the town of Poestenkill. The Poestenkill town supervisor, Dominic Jacangelo’s response was, “If you want a 10 minute response, move to the city of Troy”. Mr. Jacangelo and his supporters were admitting that a 25 minute response time would be acceptable to their town residents. Most of their residents are not aware of these facts.

Understanding Mutual Aid

Mutual aid is, as defined by the N.Y.S. Department of Health; “ a pre-planned, organized and coordinated response of EMS agencies to a request for assistance when local EMS resources are either temporarily unavailable, or have already been expended”. However, mutual aid plans are not intended to substitute for the following:

  • An EMS agency’s continued, routine, or frequent inability to provide EMS response when requested due to staffing or equipment shortages;
  • Or contracting with an appropriately authorized EMS agency.

The Sand Lake Ambulance does not have operating authority (as required by NYS DOH) to cover the town of Poestenkill for primary ambulance service as Mohawk & Empire ambulances do, and under the mutual aid guidelines to respond it MUST be a mutual aid situation. When Mohawk’s ambulance is unavailable to serve Poestenkill because it is servicing another town, this is when Rensselaer County dispatch has called for SLA to respond. However, under these conditions, the call is not for mutual aid, the call is for primary ambulance service to Poestenkill. Poestenkill giving up their ambulance service and relying on another town’s service without adding additional resources is not considered a mutual aid situation.

Sand Lake Ambulance provides mutual aid BLS (Basic Life Support, ambulance staffed with an EMT) coverage at a reciprocal level to Hoags Corners, Nassau, Schodack, Stephentown, Berlin, and ALS (Advanced Life Support, an ambulance staffed with a Paramedic) coverage at a reciprocal level to the towns of North and East Greenbush. These towns have DEDICATED ambulance services that are used to meet their own needs, and the needs of their mutual aid partners as well. Unlike the commercial service remotely covering Poestenkill, they do not run to every corner of the county leaving their towns unattended. Our mutual aid partners  do not complain because Sand Lake Ambulance provides a dedicated service to their towns and only call for mutual aid service when their own resources are being used for and within their own town, and they do not call us for a primary response position. If Poestenkill established a dedicated service for their town, as they had before dissolving their service, we would respond, as we did in the past, for mutual aid calls at a reciprocal level.

Protecting Our Residents

Spreading our existing resources too thin would jeopardize the safety of the residents of Sand Lake, and the last scenario we would want is to be in the town of Poestenkill for a sick person when a child in Sand Lake goes into severe anaphylaxis or sudden cardiac arrest.

The fact is that our organization has been more concerned about the residents of Poestenkill and rural Rensselaer County than their town boards have been.

Furthermore, Mr. Hass complains that SLA is refusing to cover the schools in Poestenkill.  It is still the responsibility of Poestenkill to provide primary ambulance service to these schools. The town of Poestenkill dissolved their ambulance service, and directed Mohawk to take on this responsibility. Poestenkill’s decision to alter ambulance service to their town does not transfer that responsibility to Sand Lake Ambulance.

We are extremely concerned about the negative effect of Poestenkill’s decision to break away from the cooperative mutual aid system that we and other towns have successfully used for so many years, and we have discussed this at length with our town and our attorneys. We have voiced our concern to the Averill Park School District, the Town of Poestenkill and Rensselaer county leadership to no avail. We at Sand Lake Ambulance are dedicated to protecting the residents of the Town of Sand Lake, we are contracted and 50% subsidized by the Town of Sand Lake. The average $200k property assessment  in Sand Lake pays $60 per year for Paramedic level ambulance coverage in the town of Sand Lake.

Many want this service provided, but the Towns of Sand Lake, North Greenbush & East Greenbush are currently the only ones willing to pay for it. Households  pay more for a month of cable than a years worth of Paramedic level ambulance coverage.

We have offered our services to Mr. Haas to help Poestenkill recruit and retain members to build a service. This is a lengthy and time consuming process that takes dedication, community involvement, and of course, money. We at SLA work very hard through the efforts of our concerned citizen/volunteers to make our organization viable, productive, and responsive to the needs of our community. We have not packed up our bags and quit when the task at hand was difficult.

We hope that the town of Poestenkill comes up with a plan to ensure their residents have adequate coverage so that we can continue our mutual aid efforts to our neighbors. We are deeply concerned about our residents and our neighbors and we urge others to be as well.

Robbie MacCue, President
Rodney Brenner, Chief
Sand Lake Ambulance



Read more about the lack of paramedic coverage in Rensselaer County.


  1. Roger Holmes says

    This is a well written response that exposes the poor distribution of ALS vs. BLS agencies in the county. I hope a copy was sent to the County Executive.

    Roger Holmes
    EMT-B, Johnsonville

  2. Joan Bishop says

    Well said!

  3. Chris Swankey says

    In April I had to call an ambulance for my husband. Our niece was at our home and is an EMT at Mohawk ambulance in Albany. She called the direct dispatch # for mohawk ambulance instead of going through 911. It took Mohawk over 40 minutes to get to our home. From the time we contacted our Dr. And he made the decision for us to call the ambulance, to the time we made it to St. Peter’s it was 2 hrs and 20 minutes later. The first words out of the nurse’s mouth was the first 2 hours are critical. He has a heart condition. I was not even aware that the town took away our ambulance until that night. This was completely unexceptable! I hope that none of the town board members ever needs an ambulance in a hurry like we did. Maybe if they did then we would have our ambulance back or at least have help from Sand Lake.

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