According to Money magazine, the current recession began in December of 2007 and most reports announce that it lasted 18 months. However, the economy continues to struggle today and still hasn't fully rebounded. The economic hard-times affect almost everyone on a personal level, but they also affect vital services that the public sometimes takes for granted.
That is the case with the Upper Perkiomen Valley Ambulance Association (UPVAA), an organization that is a victim of the troubled economy. The emergency medical service (EMS) group provides advanced life support services for East Greenville, Pennsburg and Red Hill boroughs, as well as Upper Hanover Township in Montgomery County and parts of Lower Milford in Lehigh County. Today, UPVAA is struggling to make its $8,000 monthly mortgage payment; and next month the money might not be there.
Back in early 2010 the organization realized it needed to expand its facilities to accommodate future growth. With the recession reportedly coming to an end and the promise of better economic times predicted – along with planned community growth, especially in the area of senior housing – it was the right time to develop a plan.
The group purchased land that spring and began to develop plans for a modern facility that would accommodate its current and future needs; a headquarters that would need to address those issues for the next half-century and more years to come. With money in the bank, a mortgage-free current headquarters and paid-for land to build on, the future was looking bright, if the economy cooperated. It didn't.
Instead it was a house-of-cards waiting for the combination of dark, economic breezes to take it down card by card.
By fall of 2011 a new building was designed and construction had begun for what was to be a $1.583 million dollar headquarters. The UPVAA moved into its new home in fall of 2012.
The Red Hill headquarters, at the time, was assessed for nearly $400,000. The group also planned to run a $300,000 new building fund drive. The intent was to sell the building and use the proceeds, along with monies collected from the fund drive, to pay the mortgage, and then use the cash in the bank to cover unplanned-for construction costs, fees and permits. According to UPVAA's plan, a manageable $700,000 mortgage would remain.
But the strong need for existing commercial buildings hasn't come back around here, and the Red Hill building still sits unsold at an asking price of less than half of what it was assessed in 2010.
With people barely being able to afford their own needs, charitable donations have dropped off across the country, including in the Upper Perk Valley. The UPVAA's new building fund drive netted less than half its goal.
Construction costs? What started out as a $1.583 million dollar project grew to $1.817 million, mostly on the extra costs incurred to move tons of Upper Perkiomen Valley shale from the building site and road improvement areas.
Some good news is that the current UPVAA ledger shows more than $300,000 in outstanding accounts receivables. But getting the money is harder than showing it on the books. The soaring amount of money owed to the UPVAA comes from a combination of lowered payments from insurance companies and Medicare, along with most patients' inability or unwillingness to pay the higher deductible. The latter is an issue the UPVAA plans to address by being more aggressive in attempts to collect the payments due. It is something officials are reluctant to do, but for the best interests of others who depend on their services, UPVAA knows that it must.
Many people think that their insurance covers the cost of a trip to the hospital in an advanced life support (ALS) unit, but almost all, including Medicare, pay only up to a specific amount. The patient is responsible for paying the remainder. One way residents can avoid the added expense is to become a member of the UPVAA.
The UPVAA annual membership drive is currently in process and membership with the group is a type of insurance that can help protect people from costly expenses. Membership means that one does not have to pay amounts in excess of what their insurance provides for.
Membership costs for a senior citizen are $55; a senior citizen couple, $65; an individual, $75; and a family, $85.
The group's responding staff comprise certified and qualified EMS professionals. According to UPVAA Assistant Chief Bob Eisenhart, the group is looking for volunteers from the community to serve on the Board of Directors, help with maintenance and care of the headquarters and help with office, IT, accounting or grant-writing skills. "You don't have to be a certified paramedic to volunteer to help out," Eisenhart said.
The UPVAA will hold an informational gathering for the public next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at its headquarters, 2199 East Buck Road, Pennsburg (Upper Hanover Township).
It is an opportunity for the public to make a difference in the community by rolling up their sleeves and helping out with their minds or muscle.