JOHNSTOWN — The Johnstown Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps is appealing for community donations, while officials wait for the organization to settle its gas bill with the city.
The city has given JAVAC a deadline to pay that runs out in about a week.
City officials that included Common Council members and Mayor Vern Jackson indicated at a Feb. 20 public council meeting that JAVAC had a March 16 deadline to reimburse the city from an over $10,000 gas bill it owes. JAVAC uses a city government account to pay its gas and the agency pays the city back. Some city officials said last month that if JAVAC didn’t settle up, the city might pull the ambulance services’ access to the gas account.
JAVAC’s financial difficulties surfaced publicly the last few years.
The city ambulance service in fall 2016 made public its problems, ranging from ambulance vehicle maintenance issues, to roof problems, to an ongoing tight financial situation that left it tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At that time, officials of the rescue squad said they were trying to correct years of past neglect by the organization with the remedy very expensive.
Jackson said Thursday he was unaware that JAVAC paid its gas bill.
“I haven’t been told they have,” he said.
City Treasurer Treasurer Michael Gifford verified Thursday, “On the fuel invoice, there is no change.”
Jackson said he, personally, has had no contact with JAVAC since the Feb. 20 meeting. He also said he was unsure exactly what happens next if JAVAC doesn’t meet the city’s March 16 deadline.
“If we cut off access to the gas pumps, I’m not sure,” the mayor said.
JAVAC President Duane Abbott — representing his not-for-profit organization — recently mailed out a letter to the community discussing a need for more funding.
“We are making this donation appeal to you because you are a person or a business that has roots in the Johnstown area and therefore, you understand the value of maintaining a vital community,” the letter states. “One of the most valuable aspects of a community is the health care that is provided. Emergency medical services is one critically important facet that keeps any town or city vibrant — a place where people want to live! Hopefully, you will never need to dial 911, but imagine if you dialed and no one came. In some areas of the country this is not merely a worry, but is a harsh reality of their daily existence.”
The letter notes that JAVAC is a “tremendous asset” to the greater Johnstown community, and that its paramedics, EMTs and drivers are professionally trained.
“Please keep in mind that when a community loses a hospital, a long standing medical practice, or an ambulance service, it is often the beginning of a downward spiral for that community,” the letter says.
The letter goes on to appeal for financial support, listing the JAVAC address of 231 N. Perry St.
Abbott didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.
The cost of the mass mailing was unknown.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]