The Brightwaters board of trustees has unanimously approved a controversial two-year, $110,000 ambulance contract.
Mayor Joseph A. McNulty offered a mea culpa to residents at the Monday night meeting for having signed the contract last month with Bay Shore-Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance Inc. -- the village's longtime ambulance provider -- without holding a public hearing and board vote, as required by law.
"I apologize," McNulty said during the meeting. He said of the illegal approval, "We've been doing it that way for years, and I should have asked [village attorney] Jack [Finnerty]."
Still, residents expressed concern that funding for the contract -- of which $40,000 has been paid -- is not fully appropriated in the recently passed $2.6 million budget, which raised taxes 7.5 percent and allotted $85,000 for the ambulance contract.
Resident John Valdini suggested officials should have lowered the projected $200,000 surplus. "If you say you have a surplus, why don't you just pay them and do the right thing? If you have the money, pay them."
McNulty countered: "If we put all the money in the budget for the contract, then there would be no need to negotiate."
Peter Klopsis, president of the board of directors of the ambulance service, said the contract stipulates that the village pays the balance of the contract by November.
He said he was prepared to sign a new contract when the last one, which paid $60,000 annually, expired at the end of 2011, but negotiations dragged on for more than a year.
"We are certainly pleased that the board voted to approve the contract since we had been providing the service since Jan. 1, 2012, without a contract and without any money," Klopsis said.
The largely volunteer service, which operates on a $1 million yearly budget, is funded by Brightwaters and the Town of Islip. It answers 4,000 calls annually -- about 200 of which are in Brightwaters, Klopsis said.
Village resident Carmine Chiapetta said the contract continues the bad budgeting practices cited in a recent state audit of the village.
"We were told that we need to be accurate with our budget forecasting," Chiapetta said. "As far as I'm concerned, they just continue to do more of the same and thumb their nose at authority."
The board also unanimously approved the purchase of a $24,257 hot asphalt paving machine to fix potholes.