Gill to discuss EMS regionalization with Northfield

  • Northfield EMS at 41 Main St. in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • A Northfield EMS ambulance drives on Main Street in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Northfield EMS at 41 Main St. in Northfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 8/17/2022 4:13:59 PM

GILL — With the town lacking any formal contract with an ambulance service, Selectboard member Randy Crochier plans to meet with Northfield officials to discuss potentially regionalizing with Northfield EMS.

Using a $40,000 grant through the state Community Compact Cabinet’s Efficiency and Regionalization grant program, Northfield EMS is working with the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management on a feasibility study. The study, which started in May and is expected to take six to eight months, will consider whether Northfield EMS should operate as a regional district, potentially adding more towns to its coverage area, or whether it should continue with its current model, under which it serves Northfield, Bernardston and Erving.

Meanwhile, the Gill Selectboard was prompted by a letter from the Franklin County Emergency Medical Services Committee to contract with an ambulance service or pay a $350 fee per request for service in May, having merely held informal agreements with surrounding EMS agencies previously. Selectboard members agreed that while they will entertain negotiations with Northfield, they will keep their options open should more financially opportune agreements with other EMS agencies arise.

“Historically, Franklin County had agencies that grew and provided ambulance services under a handshake for the county,” Matt Wolkenbreit, president of the Franklin County Emergency Medical Services Committee, said in May. “I can say on the record, financially, those ambulance services didn’t succeed with that business model.”

“Towns in Franklin County are heavily dependent on mutual aid as well as private contractors, with which there has been a decreasing level of satisfaction with the services provided,” a letter from Northfield to the Gill Selectboard reads. “The town has aggressively pursued opportunities to expand its service capabilities and coverage area, recognizing the benefits of a regional approach.”

According to Northfield’s letter, the scope of work proposed for research includes a feasibility study of regionalization, creation of an implementation plan, and facilitating development for necessary inter-municipal and regional agreements. Efforts are in coordination with work from the state Department of Public Health and Office of Emergency Medical Services Region 1.

Crochier said while he believes regionalizing is ultimately the smart thing for Gill to do, the Selectboard should ensure it makes the decision based on “what’s best for Gill at what cost.” This, he said, requires determining whether Gill would be a “partner” or a “customer” in an agreement with Northfield.

“Almost anything that deals with regionalization, when you don’t discuss governance, it falls apart,” he noted.

In any case, Town Administrator Ray Purington reasoned that Gill has little to lose in having discussions with Northfield.

“I don’t know that there’s any danger in having the meeting,” he said.

“I do strongly believe that, at the same time, we need to be looking at what other options are and what options we’re going against,” Crochier added.

Reach Julian Mendoza
at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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