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South County EMS

Price, sites discussed in run-up to 3-town EMS launch

SOUTH DEERFIELD — For the first full year of the South County Emergency Medical Service, townspeople in southern Franklin County will be asked to approve $749,594 for the regional paramedic service.

The latest budget numbers are $235,947 for Sunderland, $125,647 for Whately and $387,999 for Deerfield.

The budget reflects the estimated full-year cost to run the regional round-the-clock paramedic service. In October, residents approved only the half-year cost.

The administrators of the three towns devised the budget numbers.

At the Deerfield Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen meeting this week, the two groups briefly discussed how to fund the service that has not officially launched yet.

Exasperated with what he felt was too low an assessment, Deerfield EMS Director Matt Russo reminded the town it may have to go back to the townspeople to ask for more money.

“We lowered the assessment,” Russo said, directing his comment to the public access station cameras. “So if anyone gets amnesia and we have to come back and ask for that money back.”

There were several budget scenarios discussed throughout the budget process. Russo had supported a budget where Deerfield’s share was about $458,000, Interim Town Administrator Kayce Warren said.

The two Deerfield boards plan to discuss the EMS budget again Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The towns are starting an enterprise fund for the South County EMS. The fund would start July 1.

It has been a long process since the towns voted to merge the three on-call volunteer services into one regional force. The towns had hoped for a winter launch, but several steps had pushed back the deadline, including hiring the new director. The towns hired Zachary Smith of the Deerfield EMS for the job.

The goal now is to flip the switch on the service on July 1, Smith said.

“It should be a seamless transition,” Smith said.

Smith said the service is putting policies and procedures in place, making sure it has appropriate staffing and reaching contractual agreements with sister agencies and hospitals.

“It’s been a long process. There’s a lot of t’s to cross and i’s to dot, especially since we’re operating under so many federal and state regulations,” Smith said.

During the transition, Deerfield EMS has added staff coverage to provide 24/7 coverage for the three towns through the mutual aid agreements.

The towns continue to look for a permanent location. They are in talks with the private potential buyer of the Western Massachusetts Regional Library System building in the Whately Industrial Park to rent space there.

The library system and the Board of Oversight would not disclose who the buyer is.

Meanwhile, the Board of Oversight is determining lease agreements for the service to rent space for its ambulance rigs in the South Deerfield fire station, the Sunderland Public Safety Complex and the Whately fire station.

How to calculate the rental cost has been a bone of contention for the towns. They are negotiating the best and fair way to charge rental space.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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