Editorial: Timing odd on Deerfield EMS turn

Being prepared — or undercutting a prolonged regional effort to provide emergency medical services?

Either way, the timing of the Deerfield selectmen’s decision to ask residents consider improving the town’s ambulance service on a purely local basis is seems out of sync.

With just weeks to go before residents in Whately and Sunderland make their decision known about a proposed partnership with Deerfield that would create a three-town ambulance service, Deerfield selectmen last week started talking about letting voters make a different kind of decision: Dropping an ambulance partnership and instead simply upgrading the town’s existing ambulance service.

“We always thought to move forward, regardless of what happens,” Mark Gilmore, Deerfield selectmen chairman said.

On the surface, it seems that selectmen want to be prepared should Whately or Sunderland voters shoot down the idea of a joint service. And selectmen are saying that they’re still very much interested in this regional plan, but want to give residents an option.

We thought that option existed in the voting on the question of forming the three-town ambulance service. A “no” vote would imply that Deerfield wanted to keep its own service, leaving what now exists in place. Therefore, any improvements would be paid for by Deerfield residents alone.

But in putting forth an alternative for voting at this stage has created a public perception, no matter what Deerfield selectmen are saying in public, that serves as a distraction from making a solid case to the voters that a shared-service is in the best interests of Deerfield.

Even accepting that the Deerfield board is committed to a regional approach, it seems late in the process to be putting another option on the table, let alone before voters at a special town meeting.

This discussion of remaining a solo ambulance service on the part of Deerfield should have been taking place all along.

No wonder Sunderland Board of Selectmen Chairman Scott Bergeron said, “I didn’t expect this. I though we were going in the same direction.”

Bergeron’s not alone in wondering about that.

Let’s hope this last-minute proposal doesn’t derail the effort.

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