Opinion 91-7


This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.


AMBULANCE DISTRICTS -- Contracts (authority to contract with village fire department)
AMBULANCE SERVICE -- Contracts (by town with fire department rescue squad) -- Fire Districts (when fire district may contract for emergency and general service)
FIRE DISTRICTS -- Ambulance Service (circumstances in which district may contract for provision of)
FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICTS -- Ambulance Service (by fire department other than the one providing fire protection)
TOWNS -- Ambulance Service (authority to contract to receive ambulance service)
VILLAGES -- Ambulance Service (authority of rescue squad to provide ambulance service outside village)

GENERAL MUNICIPAL LAW, §122-b; TOWN LAW, §§190, 198(10-f), 209: A town may contract for an emergency medical service, a general ambulance service, or a combination of such services on a town-wide basis or on behalf of a duly established ambulance district. The town may not, however, enter into such a contract with an emergency rescue and first aid squad of a fire department or fire company.
GENERAL MUNICIPAL LAW, §209-b; TOWN LAW, §184: A town, on behalf of a fire protection district, may contract with the fire department or fire company providing fire protection within the district for the furnishing of emergency ambulance service, general ambulance service, or both within the district. If the fire department or fire company providing fire protection within the district does not maintain and operate an ambulance, the town may enter into a separate contract for ambulance services within the district.
GENERAL MUNICIPAL LAW, §209-b; TOWN LAW, §176(22): A fire district, the fire department of which does not have an emergency rescue and first aid squad, may contract with any city, town, village or fire district which has in its fire department an emergency rescue and first aid squad duly authorized to render emergency ambulance service to receive emergency ambulance service. A fire district may not contract to receive general ambulance service unless it also contracts to receive fire protection.

This is in reply to your letter concerning the authority under which the emergency rescue and first aid squad of a village fire department may provide general ambulance service to areas of the town outside the village. The village currently contracts with the town in which the village is located to provide fire protection to a fire protection district which includes approximately one-half of the town. With the exception of a small portion of the town which is within a fire district, the remainder of the town outside the village is within a second fire protection district.

The town board contracts with a fire company to provide fire protection within the second fire protection district. You state that this fire company does not operate an ambulance.

You ask whether the town may contract with the village to provide general ambulance service to the entire area of the town outside the village and, if so, whether the establishment of an ambulance district by the town is necessary to authorize such a contract. If such a contract is not authorized, you ask whether there is any other authority under which the emergency rescue and first aid squad of the village fire department may provide general ambulance service to the area of the town outside of the village.

When a village has organized an emergency rescue and first aid squad composed of firefighters who are members of the village fire department, the governing board of the village may contract to provide ambulance services outside the village (General Municipal Law, §209-b[1][b],[2][c]). The consents of the fire department and the emergency rescue and first aid squad are required before the village may enter into any such contract (General Municipal Law, §209-b[1][b],[2][d]).

Section 122-b of the General Municipal Law authorizes a town to contract with one or more individuals, municipal corporations, associations or other organizations to provide an emergency medical service, a general ambulance service or a combination of these services. Since section 122-b includes no provision authorizing a contract to provide such services for only a portion of the town, it is our opinion that a contract entered into pursuant to this section must provide for service on a town-wide basis (1986 Opns St Comp No. 86-13, p 22; 1981 Opns St Comp No. 81-112, p 115; 1980 Opns St Comp No. 80-85, unreported). In addition, section 122-b(1)(e) expressly provides that no contract shall be entered into pursuant to section 122-b for the services of "...an emergency rescue and first aid squad of a fire department or fire company which is subject to the provisions of section two hundred nine-b of the General Municipal Law" (see also 1980 Opns St Comp No. 80-684, unreported). Consequently, section 122-b does not provide the requisite authority for the village and the town to enter into a contract for the provision of ambulance service to the town by the emergency rescue and first aid squad of the village fire department, whether on a town-wide or town outside village basis.

Under articles 12 and 12-A of the Town Law, a town may establish ambulance districts to provide an emergency medical service, a general ambulance service or a combination of such services within the boundaries of the district (Town Law §§190, 198[10-f], 209). Once an ambulance district has been established, the town board is authorized, on behalf of the district, to contract with certain entities to provide these services (Town Law, §198[10-f][a][ii],[iii]). As under the provisions of section 122-b of the General Municipal Law, however, the town is precluded from contracting for the services of an emergency rescue and first aid squad of a fire department or fire company (id.). Therefore, while the establishment of an ambulance district would permit the town board to contract for ambulance services for less than the entire town-wide area, it would not authorize a contract with the emergency rescue and first aid squad of the village fire department.

Apart from the provisions of section 122-b of the General Municipal Law and articles 12 and 12-A of the Town Law, a town may provide for general ambulance service only in the context of a fire protection contract. Under section 184(1) of the Town Law, whenever a fire protection district has been established, the town board is authorized to contract with any city, village, fire district or incorporated fire company for the furnishing of fire protection within the district. Any such contract may also provide that the fire department or fire company furnishing fire protection provide emergency ambulance service, general ambulance service, or both within the district (Town Law, §184[1]; General Municipal Law, §209-b[2][c]). If, however, the fire department or fire company furnishing fire protection within the district does not maintain and operate an ambulance, the town board may enter into a separate contract to provide emergency ambulance service, general ambulance service, or both within the district (Town Law, §184[1]; see also 1979 Opns St Comp No. 79-48, p 8). The separate contract may be entered into with: a city, village or fire district whose fire department maintains and operates an ambulance; an incorporated fire company, headquartered outside the fire protection district, which maintains and operates an ambulance; or an ambulance service certified or registered pursuant to article 30 of the Public Health Law. In the two former instances, the contracts are subject to the provisions of General Municipal Law, §209-b.

In the instant situation, therefore, the town board may contract for ambulance services on behalf of the two fire protection districts in the town pursuant to Town Law, §184(1). The fire protection contract for the fire protection district in which the village fire department furnishes fire protection could also provide for the furnishing of emergency ambulance service, general ambulance service, or both by the emergency rescue and first aid squad of the village fire department. Since, as noted above, the fire company furnishing fire protection within the second fire protection district does not operate an ambulance, the town board could enter into a separate contract with the village for the provision of ambulance services within the district by the emergency rescue and first aid squad of the village fire department.

In relation to the portion of the town within the fire district, section 209-b(1)(b) of the General Municipal Law permits a fire district whose own fire department has not been authorized to render emergency ambulance service to contract for that service with another city, town, village or fire district which has in its fire department an emergency rescue and first aid squad. With regard to general ambulance service, however, a fire district may contract to receive general ambulance service only in situations in which the fire district receives fire protection under contract (General Municipal Law, §209-b[2][c]; Town Law, §176[22]; see also 1987 Opns St Comp No. 87-39, p 61). Note that any contract under which the emergency rescue and first aid squad of the village fire department is to provide ambulance services to the portion of the town within the fire district would be entered into with the fire district, rather than the town.

March 27, 1991
James L. Sapienza, Esq., Village Attorney
Village of Macedon