By Peter Becker

Managing Editor

HAWLEY - Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company is still dealing with costs and damages related to the fire that erupted in their garage on River Street on May 31, 2012. Chief Bryan Utegg said that the contractor hired by their insurance carrier had bid too low and quit, leaving them with unfinished repairs.

The contractor left a bill for $103,000. This covered the ceiling repairs, painting and repairs to the two rest rooms. There are still no adequate heating or electric utilities in the ambulance garage. Lack of adequate heating in the attached hall has kept them from resuming bingo, which is one of their key fund-raisers. Finding rentals for wedding receptions and the like have also been difficult, without proper heat.

Utegg said the ambulance company is seeking legal advice and have withheld payment of the bill in the meantime. The insurance company provided a $148,000 payment for the total damages. That leaves $45,000 to finish the repairs, but Utegg said that this will still be approximately $55,000 to $60,000 short of what is expected to be needed to complete the work.

They are planning to send a fund-raising letter to their membership asking for assistance. Utegg said they had not sent a letter in a few years realizing that residents have it hard with the weak national economy. They also are hoping to resume bingo this winter twice a month on Sunday afternoons rather than hold it in the evening liked they had been doing. They are currently getting quotes to repair the utilities.

Bingo would be scheduled on alternating Sundays so to not conflict with White Mills Fire Department's bingo schedule. They hope to resume bingo in early February.

Hawley Ambulance also plans to hold chicken barbeques. Funding from the letter drive, bingo and dinners would go towards restoring the heating and electrical utilities. Other building repairs, he said, may have to come out of their diminishing savings.

They have been used an smaller heating system to warm the building enough for daytime use, which he said was adequate when they had the blood mobile there.

Hawley Ambulance no longer utilizes paid staff; they are back to all-volunteer, and Utegg said they are fortunate to have a good group of dedicated people. They have 14 who take shifts for the ambulance crew, and another 13 support volunteers.

Due to the damages, they are continuing to rent space at the White Mills Community Ambulance building in White Mills, where a crew is on duty and supplies are kept.

Their older (1995) ambulance is in the Hawley Ambulance garage with the smaller-grade heating system. The ambulance they bought in 2012 is parked outside the hall where it is kept running, with a crew waiting to respond. Unfortunately, and entirely separate from the fire, the newer ambulance has given them trouble and should be replaced.

Utility expenses presently cost approximately $1,000 a month to heat both the building in Hawley and the rental in White Mills. The electrical bill comes to about $500 a month between both locations.

Last year, Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company answered 447 emergency calls. Of these, 390 were paid transport, for which they receive around $200 a call, Utegg said. Their call log used to be higher, before Lackawaxen Township took responsibility for the whole township including the Tinkwig and Woodloch Springs areas, close to Hawley. Their service area also used to include Paupack Township, where presently Wayne Ambulance has a unit stationed at Lakeville.

At one time, they had about 900 emergency calls a year, Utegg said. He said he has been an emergency medical responder for 24 years, since he was 16 years old.

The fire last year was traced to a lowly paper clip, which somehow fell and became lodged between the prongs of a calculator's wall plug and the electrical outlet. The fire started in the garage area where they kept their office.

Financial donations for Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company are tax-deductible. Contributions may be sent to Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company, 219 River St., Hawley, PA 18428 and marked for "general expenses" or "building fund." The company may be contacted at 226-2734.