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South County EMS

Deerfield: We still support regional EMS

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WHATELY — The proposal for a regional 24/7 paramedic ambulance service for the towns of Whately, Deerfield and Sunderland is back on track.

On Tuesday, the Deerfield Board of Selectmen reassured its partner towns that it would support the regional proposal, despite questions raised in that town in recent weeks.

“We support the regional plan as long as it is able to move forward,” said Selectmen’s Chairman Mark Gilmore. “We committed to the other two towns that we’d support this if they did, and it passed their meetings. Our point of view is to see this through, but we have an alternate plan to see 24/7 paramedic ambulance service for the town of Deerfield.”

“I would recommend the regional. I haven’t changed my position,” said Selectman Carolyn Shores Ness. “I think it is more sustainable in the long run. My only subtext is if (Whately or Sunderland) doesn’t support it, we’re moving forward no matter what.”

Newest board member, David Wolfram, also said he favors the regional plan.

The South County EMS Planning Group — the three towns’ EMS directors fire chiefs and selectmen — met once more to hash out remaining details and to come to a final resolution.

Earlier this month, the regional plan had met its first major roadblock in two years when Deerfield surprised its partner towns by discussing two options for its voters to consider — the regional service or an expanded local service.

On Sept. 6, the Deerfield board met with town employees inside the police department, where employees told the board they would prefer an expanded local EMS option. Deerfield EMS Director Matt Russo prepared budgets for the two scenarios.

Gilmore said a Deerfield-only option would ensure that the town improves its service no matter how the other towns vote.

The cost for the regional service for the three towns is $749,595. This includes $638,895 for a net operating budget and $110,700 for capital expenditures.

Under the regional service, Deerfield’s 51.76 percent 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.

The Deerfield-only option would also provide 24/7 paramedic coverage for $352,931. Sixteen of those hours would have a basic or intermediate schedule and the overnight hours would be covered by on-call staff, Russo said. There would be seven full-time employees.

With support from all three boards, the South County EMS Planning Group forged ahead.

The groups set tentative special town meeting dates: Oct. 15 in Whately; Oct. 18 in Sunderland, and Oct. 21 in Deerfield.

A public information session is proposed for Oct. 1 at Frontier Regional School if the space is available.

The planning group also agreed that if a town opts out of the service after one year, it will get back the assets it contributed.

According to the inter-municipal agreement, the towns will make a list of their current assets. The Board of Oversight will then review the list and choose which items it will use for the regional service.

At the request of Shores Ness, Deerfield would be the fiscal agent.

The board membership is a political issue in Deerfield with many residents questioning why with 51 percent of the cost and land Deerfield only gets two votes, the Deerfield board said. The board debated making the fiscal agent appointee a voting member, but the group decided to give each town two representatives on the Board of Oversight. Equal membership is a method that has worked well in the past for the South County Senior Center and the Frontier Community Access Television, the planning group said.

The next meeting is Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. in Deerfield Town Hall. The planning group will come up with a marketing plan for the town meetings.

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

I would respectfully like to request a correction to the below quote. The alternate plan that Deerfield is proposing is not a 24/7 paramedic plan and we have discussed this numerous times. As a member of this committee I believe it is extremely important that all of the facts are accurate so that the townspeople can base their decisions accordingly. Quote: “We committed to the other two towns that we’d support this if they did, and it passed their meetings. Our point of view is to see this through, but we have an alternate plan to see 24/7 paramedic ambulance service for the town of Deerfield.” Sincerely David J. Pierce, Selectman, Sunderland.

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