HOPKINTON — As they continued to prepare the town’s $25.4 million spending proposal at their Thursday budget workshop, members of the Town Council approved grants to several nonprofit groups, including two ambulance corps.
Hope Valley Ambulance will receive the same amount as the current year, $50,000. The Westerly Ambulance Corps, which picks up mutual aid calls, will be paid on a per-call basis: $250 per run up to an annual maximum of $25,000.
However, the Ashaway Ambulance Association, which in past years has received the same amount as Hope Valley, did not receive its requested $50,000 for the coming year and the council vowed to withhold the money until it received more financial information.
Citing numerous shortcomings in the administration and financial reporting of the association, the council stopped funding Ashaway Ambulance last March. The town withheld the final quarter payment of the $45,000 it allocated to the association in the previous fiscal year, and has withheld two quarters of the current year’s total annual payment of $50,000.
The town’s decision has led to a public dispute. Ashaway Fire Chief Ron Sposato, a member of the association’s board of directors, blamed the council for playing politics at residents’ expense. The town countered that until it had received the requested financial documents, it would not devote any more taxpayers’ money to the association.
At Thursday’s workshop, Town Council President Frank Landolfi told Curt Dumas, Ashaway Ambulance secretary, that the association had until the final budget workshop on March 13 to produce the requested documents. The town received the association’s formal request for funds, albeit several weeks past the January deadline, but it was still waiting for the audit as well as for the group’s IRS 990 return, the type of return filed by many nonprifit, tax exempt organizations.
“We don’t have all the information to render a decision,” Landolfi told Dumas with obvious irritation. “Essentially, we need the audit, which is part of the regular process, and we needed the 990 tax return and the request form by January 12th. So we’ve got one more meeting, it’s been rescheduled to Tuesday.”
Council Vice President Thomas Buck suggested to Dumas that he try to get the information to the council by Friday so the members would have the weekend to read it before Tuesday’s meeting. Dumas said he would try.
The council also approved funding for the Ashaway Free Library and the Langworthy Library, both of which will be level-funded at $66,000. Wood River Health Services will receive $10,000, the same as the current year, and the Community 2000 Education Foundation, will receive $500.