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Overdue tax notice causes concern

Freedom BOS consider purchasing ambulance as backup

May 06, 2010
FREEDOM — Selectmen are concerned about the financial health of MedStar Emergency Medical Service, the private ambulance company that serves Freedom and several other local communities. However, a MedStar representative says his company will be fine although it does owe back taxes.

At their meeting on Monday night, Selectmen revealed that they got a letter from the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration that stated the West Ossipee Ambulance service owed at total of $51,485 in taxes as of April 22. Selectmen explained that the letter said the state would take 20 percent of every payment the Town of Freedom makes to MedStar until the taxes are paid.

Initially, Chairman Les Babb only said the board had received a correspondence that made them concerned about the solvency of MedStar. That made selectmen want to look at purchasing a new ambulance to act as a backup in case MedStar fails.

But then, Selectman Neal Boyle asked Babb to explain that the letter came from DRA and pertained to back taxes.

Selectmen said they believe the same letter was sent to the other towns that MedStar serves: Ossipee, Tamworth, Madison, Eaton, and Effingham. Freedom is unique in MedStar's coverage area because it's the only town that does not have its own backup ambulance, said Babb.

The town does have a rescue vehicle with life saving supplies, but it does not transport patients. Board members instructed Fire Chief Gene Doe to shop around for a deal on an ambulance. Officials said it would be a good idea to get an ambulance anyway — just in case there is an emergency in town while MedStar's fleet is busy.

"We don't want the town's people to be left with nothing," said Babb who added the town had no intention of leaving MedStar.

On Tuesday, MedStar's Operations Manager Brian Johns said he wanted to assuage fears that his company was facing a financial meltdown. Johns said he would visit with town officials to address concerns that DRA's letter has generated. Johns said he worked out a payment plan with DRA and MedStar is going to pay this bill just like it pays any other. Johns estimated the taxes would be paid off in less than a year. In the meantime, there won't be any cuts to services.

"It's going to be business as usual," said Johns. "Our trucks will still be rolling out."

Doe estimated that a five to six year old ambulance might cost $35,000 to $50,000 and a brand new one might cost $80,000.

"I want a brand new one for $30,000," Babb joked.

Another advantage of having an ambulance is that it would save wear and tear on the town's 2001 rescue vehicle, said Doe. The new ambulance could be stored inside if he moves some trailers outside, he said.

The DRA's letter about MedStar is titled "tax warrant distraint (a type of lien) for taxes and demand for surrender."

Here's what it says:

Pursuant to the provisions of RSA 21-J: 28-D. 80:2 and 80:8, and pursuant to the tax assessment as it appears on the attached certified copy of tax notices, the State of New Hampshire here with distrains and demands surrender of all goods, chattels, personal estate property interest, rights and credits of the person and or corporation named above, to the extent necessary to satisfy the payment of said tax, together with all penalties, interest, fees, an (SIC) costs which are now due, or have or may accrue.

Good, chattels, personal estate property interest, rights and credits distrained and demand: 20 percent of future payments from the town of Freedom."

Varney Smith
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