South County makes its EMS pitch to public
DEERFIELD — For more than two years, selectmen in southern Franklin County have researched, studied, debated and argued about how to create a 24/7 regional paramedic ambulance service for their townspeople. On Tuesday, it came time for the three boards of selectmen and EMS directors to make the final pitch.
Fifty-seven people from Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately filed into the Frontier Regional School Cafeteria to hear the proposal with Deerfield EMS Director Matt Russo leading the two-hour tri-town meeting.
Town leaders in Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland are asking voters to support a proposal that would create the South County Emergency Medical Service, which would be Franklin County’s first muncipal regional ambulance service.
The primary ambulance would be based out of the South Deerfield fire station for up to three years, with an on-call ready reserve ambulance at the Sunderland Public Safety Complex.
The service would cost $749,595 for its first full year.
Deerfield’s share would be $387,990. Sunderland’s portion would be $235,972. Whately would pay $125,632.
From either location, a fully staffed ambulance could be on scene within 15 minutes or less in 85 percent or more of all EMS responses dispatched, according to the town’s proposal.
The townspeople will have their say at special town meetings. The Whately town meeting is Oct. 15. The Sunderland meeting is Oct. 18 and the Deerfield meeting is Oct. 28.
If approved by the three towns, the Board of Oversight will begin the work of building the service and the search for a working director.
The goal is to launch the service in January 2014.
The main sticking point was the makeup of the Board of Oversight — the voting group charged with creating an annual budget and overseeing the proposed ambulance service.
The selectmen have proposed equal membership — two voting representatives from each town.
Plus, Deerfield would get to appoint a nonvoting member as the fiscal agent handling bills.
Many Deerfield residents argued that with 51 percent of the cost, it should have one more voting member. But the selectmen emphasized the need for collaboration.
The board membership, the selectmen said, is based on the South County Senior Center Board, which they said has become a state model.
Money, on the other hand, wasn’t a hot topic as selectmen tried to emphasize the importance of saving lives over dollars.