An overflowing crowd at the Great Neck Village Hall strongly opposed the rumored plans of village officials to replace the Vigilant Fire Department as the provider of emergency ambulance services in favor of the Northwell Hospital Group. Impassioned testimony from resident after resident explained how over the years Vigilant volunteers have provided rapid, dedicated and frequently life-saving services. The prospect of the loss of Vigilant was a stated source of much anxiety to many residents. Representatives of the Vigilants explained how the scope of their life-saving services extends far beyond the transportation of critically ill residents to the nearest hospital. In response to a question from a resident, Mayor Bral stated that the annual cost of Vigilant ambulance services to the village was around $250,000.
The mayor started the meeting at 7:30 p.m. and then suggested that the person who requested the agenda item speak for the entire overflow crowd. As that person, I objected and pointed out that it had been promised that all residents would be allowed to speak and that I did not represent anyone but myself. The mayor then agreed to let the meeting go forward as a regular public session.
During the course of the public comments, Mayor Bral stated several times that no proposal was currently before the board and that the village was simply doing its due diligence to ensure that village money was being spent in the most efficient manner. He also stated that the village would never take any action in this matter that would be harmful to the health of village residents. I stated strongly that I believed it was the village’s first responsibility to protect the health and safety of its residents, ahead of fiscal issues. One firefighter asked if the board was conducting a “due diligence” survey of the cost of other village services.
A former editor of the Great Neck Record reviewed the history of emergency ambulance services on the peninsula, pointing out that many years ago, residents decided that it was best for Great Neck to have its own emergency ambulance service in part because of lack of easy access from outside. Much has been invested in emergency equipment. Those decisions have been reviewed many times over the years. A near $2,000,000 study came to the same conclusion.