Deerfield board eyes local ambulance
DEERFIELD — With only a few weeks left before southern Franklin County towns vote on a regional ambulance proposal, the Deerfield Board of Selectmen will ask its residents to consider a town-only service as well.
At Friday’s board meeting, town employees discussed whether to move forward with the 24-hour regional service with Whately and Sunderland ... or to improve the town service instead.
The selectmen say they aren’t abandoning the proposed South County EMS service, but are ensuring that the town has an improved service with better response times — no matter how that goes.
“We always thought to move forward regardless of what happens,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Mark Gilmore.
At an upcoming special town meeting — the date of which is yet to be determined — the selectmen will ask townspeople to choose between a regional service and a town option.
The Deerfield selectmen plan to hold their town meeting last to see how Whately and Sunderland townspeople vote. In case their neighbors reject the proposal, Deerfield selectmen would have another option for their residents to consider.
For almost two years, the three towns’ selectmen and EMS and fire directors have discussed the creation of a regional 24-hour paramedic ambulance that would cover the 66 square miles the towns encompass and respond to 1,000 calls a year.
This week, the EMS working group — made up of the three selectboards and ambulance and fire directors — agreed on a $638,895 service based out of the South Deerfield fire station. A second ambulance would be at the Sunderland Public Safety Complex.
The group also set a tentative tri-town public hearing date on Sept. 19 at the Frontier Regional School. The Deerfield selectmen want to change this date, however, because it conflicts with a school open house.
EMS Director Matt Russo prepared two budget scenarios — for local and regional options. The question of an expanded local option was raised by townspeople and the Finance Committee, he said. Police Chief John Paciorek Jr. and Highway Director Shawn Patterson and John Paciorek Sr. support the town option.
The benefit of a regional service, Russo said, is sharing the costs with other towns, gaining a second staffed ambulance, and receiving grants to cover startup costs.
The drawback, Russo said, is that Deerfield would bear 51.76 percent of the cost and only have two of the six votes on the Board of Oversight.
The benefits of a Deerfield-only expanded service is the cost, Russo said.
For Deerfield, the regional service would be more costly than a similar expanded local service.
The cost difference is $35,059.
The total cost for the regional service for the three towns is $749,595.
The cost includes $638,895 for a net operating budget and $110,700 for capital expenditures.
Under the regional service, Deerfield’s 51.76 share would be $387,990.
Sunderland would contribute 31.48 percent of the cost, or $235,972. Whately would contribute 16.76 percent of the cost, or $125,632.
Russo’s proposed budget differs from the first budget proposed at last week’s EMS working group meeting by $10,000 in capital due to a miscalculation in the first budget. Russo included the $10,000 in his proposal.
Based on Russo’s calculations, the Deerfield-only option would cost $352,931.
The proposed budget is $327,931 for net operating costs and $25,000 for capital expenditures.
The predicted revenue or the amount of money an EMS department gets back from health insurance differs by $80,138. The regional service would receive $380,138 in revenue. The expanded local service would receive $300,000.
Deerfield currently receives $170,000 in revenue.
The average Deerfield homeowner would receive a cheaper tax bill under the expanded local service versus the regional service.
For an average home value of $275,000, taxpayers can expect to pay $90.75 for the regional service or $77 for the expanded local service.
The total amount from taxes for the regional service would be $215,908 compared with $180,849 for the local service.
Taxpayers now pay $172,081.
Deerfield is already in the position to become an independent paramedic service.
Russo said the town department has most of the equipment needed to get started. And Deerfield has applied for its paramedic status, with two paramedics currently on staff.
This isn’t the first time Deerfield has considered an improved town service.
During last spring’s budget season, the selectmen and finance committee also debated a town-only service.
Whether townspeople choose the regional or the local service, Russo said he believes the town can afford either option.