Charlemont voters approve $350K for new ambulance

  • Roughly 50 people gathered for a continued Charlemont Annual Town Meeting at Hawlemont Regional School on Tuesday. Staff Photo/Bella Levavi

Staff Writer
Published: 6/1/2022 4:40:41 PM

CHARLEMONT — Roughly 50 people gathered for a continued Annual Town Meeting at Hawlemont Regional School on Tuesday, picking up where they left off discussing the 21 articles, including a $350,000 appropriation for a new ambulance.

Last week, residents approved a $231,958 tax levy-limit override for Hawlemont Regional School’s operating budget and the town’s nearly $4.3 million budget. With the initial meeting lasting three and a half hours, voters were asked to reconvene at the same time on Tuesday to take action on Article 5 on the warrant, as well as Articles 7 through 21.

Officials explained Charlemont buys a new ambulance about every 10 years and it is time for an upgrade. The town would need a debt-exclusion vote to buy the ambulance with a loan, so it was decided to buy it using the free cash budget instead.

Town Administrator Sarah Reynolds said residents have been fighting raising taxes for decades and much of the town is now neglected.

“We need to invest in our infrastructure,” she said.

Ten out of the 42 bridges in Charlemont are under construction, with most of the costs being paid for by grants. Some concerned residents asked if a grant could help pay for a new ambulance as well. Reynolds said when she looked into these ambulance grants, she found towns usually received ambulances that were more than 25 years old.

“When you buy secondhand, you inherit secondhand problems,” Ambulance Director Dana Johnson said.

Many residents asked about buying used ambulances to lower the cost, but others said having high-quality ambulances is paramount in a life-or-death situation.

In the last quarter, the town ambulance service made $26,000 more than what it costs to operate. With this statistic, Reynolds claimed it would take four years to earn back the $350,000 with the new operating ambulance. Johnson also stressed the cost would include the vehicle and a stretcher; the town already owns all the other equipment.

In response to other concerns about the town not having enough employees to staff the ambulance service around the clock, many of the new workers in the room were introduced. Charlemont also has a program where the town pays for EMT training for those who would like to work for the town.

Many brought up regionalization as an answer to the high price tag of a new ambulance. They discussed neighboring towns helping out with the budget for the new vehicles in exchange for services. However, this idea was nixed over legal concerns.

“The way the capital expense system works is we spread out the capital expenses from year to year,” Ron Smith, a member of the Capital Planning Committee, told residents. “I am asking you to work with us.”

As supply chains are stressed across the country, the same is true for ambulances. There is high demand for all emergency vehicles and prices are rising. Even with the unanimous vote on Tuesday night to spend the $350,000, it will take three years for the town to receive the new ambulance, according to Johnson.

Recall elections

Later in the meeting, an article submitted by petition involving recall elections for town officials came to the floor. The proposal spelled out how to file a recall petition and the process by which a recall election would be set.

Voters did not pass the article, but created a committee to rewrite the petition with more specificity. The motion was amended several times, ultimately ensuring that there will be people for and against the petition serving on the committee.

Reach Bella Levavi
or 413-930-4579.


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