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South County EMS

Sunderland to reduce firefighter/EMT position

SUNDERLAND — When the South County Emergency Medical Service officially launches, the town will reduce the hours and salary of the existing firefighter/EMT position by more than two-thirds.

Currently, the firefighter/EMT position is the only full-time 40-hour-per-week job within the fire department. The firefighter/EMT position is responsible for administration, training and fire prevention services. Those tasks will continue under the reduced position, but the EMT side of the job will be eliminated.

The reduced position would be part-time at 12 hours per week. Pay will decrease from $37,500 a year to $11,180 per year. The part-time position will receive $215 per week.

Jim Tower has served as a call firefighter/EMT for the town for 10 years. He has worked full-time in the town since 2007.

When asked whether Tower will continue in the position in its reduced capacity, Fire Chief Robert Ahearn said “maybe” and that the decision is up to Tower.

Tower declined to comment for this story.

Tower will continue to work 40 hours until the regional ambulance takes over, which is tentatively planned for March 1.

Reducing the position won’t save the town money as it transitions to the regional ambulance service.

Under the regional budget, Sunderland taxpayers’ costs would actually increase by $54,186.

In October, townspeople approved $155,366 for their share of the service for the remaining year. The projected full-year cost for Sunderland under the regional service is $235,972.

The goal of the regional service, however, is to improve response time and patient care, not to save money, Ahearn said.

The town is transitioning to a shared paramedic service with Deerfield and Whately that would provide 24 hours, seven days a week coverage.

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