Ambulance service still in application phase

JOHNSTOWN — The city is working behind the scenes while it awaits word on its application to the state to operate a city government-run ambulance service.

The Common Council in June acted on such a unit, to be run through the city Fire Department. The council authorized initiation of paperwork to create an “advance life support first response service”

“We’re still in the application phase,” city Fire Chief Bruce Heberer said Thursday. “We’re just waiting.”

The council passed a resolution to apply for a Municipal Certificate of Need (Muni-CON), from the New York State Emergency Medical Services Council to establish and operate the unit in the city. Mayor Vern Jackson was empowered to sign any and all documents to establish this new service. Under provisions of state Public Heath Law, a municipality has the authority to adopt a resolution to establish and operate advanced life support first responder transport services within tits municipality and surrounding areas.

Heberer said that while the city awaits word on its application, it is also working behind the scenes regarding creation of an ambulance service. He said the city has obtained some equipment, done some training, and “answered questions” for the city Fire Department union – Johnstown Fire Firefighters Association Local 779.

Meanwhile, he said the city can’t do anything concrete until the Muni-CON is approved.

“Unfortunately, it’s a very slow pace,” Heberer said.

The Muni-CON is required by the state Department of Health. Officials say the city service will operate like any other private agency, with the city billing Medicaid and Medicare.

June’s resolution indicated: “The city believes that it is in the best interest of the city of Johnstown, its residents and the greater community to add this service as a consistent level of care and added response.”

City officials have said this spring they are not trying to replace the Johnstown Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps on North Perry Street, which has struggled financially in recent years. The city in March cut off its gas supply pipeline because it owed the city thousands of dollars.

But Heberer has said the hope is to have at least one ambulance staffed for city use, 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

JAVAC board President Duane Abbott couldn’t be reached Thursday regarding the city’s ongoing effort to establish a new ambulance operation.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at