Fly Car System Is A Needed Program
There have been relatively little public discussion of Chautauqua County’s implementation of a fly car system.
Part of the reason for that is that it is difficult to argue something must be done to make sure life-saving services are provided quickly at a time when the county’s population is aging, and needs more services. At the same time, volunteer fire departments are having a harder time filling their ranks and an even more difficult time getting members to become certified as EMTs.
“We struggle daily on the delivery of emergency medical services to people,” Mike Volpe, Busti fire chief, told members of the Chautauqua County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee in July.
For that reason alone, the fly car system needs to happen. When a county resident has a health emergency they should know they are getting the fastest response time possible. The county has done a good job partnering with ALSTAR EMS and volunteer fire departments to fill gaps that in the way services are provided.
Another reason there has been little public discussion is the county’s strong financial position. Between the sale of the Chautauqua County Home, an increase in the sales tax and stunning growth in the tax base, the County Legislature found itself in the position this year of decreasing the county tax rate while increasing the tax levy. That means the cost of new programs and positions isn’t being felt as strongly because there are more taxpayers footing the bill. We note the recurring personnel costs to man a fly car system, at the wage scales approved recently by the legislature, start at about $250,000 in 2017 (based on 40-hour work weeks) and top out at about $320,000 if all of the fly car employees reach the top of the salary scale. Keep in mind those costs don’t include benefits and don’t include the cost of vehicles and equipment.
The fly car system is a needed program that is well worth the county’s investment. It is a program the county could not have afforded to create a few short years ago — a fact we hope isn’t lost on legislators as they are asked for further expansions of the county budget moving forward. Now is the time to judiciously use the county’s strong fiscal position to help county residents, as it has with the fly car, not to throw cash around willy nilly.