Leyden re-envisioning public safety

  • Resident Ann Zaveruha, who has 30 years of experience in emergency medicine, shares plans to establish Leyden’s own EMS department during a Nov. 1 Selectboard meeting. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DeLUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 11/10/2021 5:15:34 PM

LEYDEN — A new, seven-member committee is being tasked with looking into recommendations for the future direction of public safety services in town.

While conversations about re-envisioning public safety in the small, rural community have been ongoing for weeks, if not months, the Selectboard voted this week to have the town moderator appoint members to the new committee. The group will address all public services — police, fire, emergency medical service and emergency management services — and “potentially how they can work more interdependently,” said Selectboard member Erica Jensen.

EMS now operates under the Police Department, although the town has been discussing moving EMS under the Fire Department. Resident Ann Zaveruha, who has 30 years of experience in emergency medicine, has been leading the charge to establish Leyden’s own EMS team.

“Setting up Leyden’s public safety program is of extreme importance to the residents of today, and will greatly affect the health and safety of the future inhabitants of this town,” Zaveruha said during a Nov. 1 Selectboard meeting.

Zaveruha said she is speaking with Northfield EMS Chief Mark Fortier for guidance, and first responder training at the cost of just $35 per person. This began after June’s Annual Town Meeting, when she first expressed concern over medical services operating under the Police Department. Residents have since expressed to her an interest in “expanding and improving upon” the town’s emergency response system.

Under the working title of the “EMS Club” a dozen residents have started taking courses for first responder certification.

“We do have a motto already, that is ‘Keep the Hills Alive,’” Zaveruha said.

In addition to Zaveruha, current members of the “club” include Board of Health Chair Beth Kuzdeba; Fire Department Officer-in-Charge Brian Pelletier; Cindy McGoldrick, who is already employed by the town as a certified EMT; and Jensen, who was a firefighter when she lived in San Francisco.

After education, the hope is to secure a fully equipped first responder vehicle. Pelletier has acquired new EMS jump bags and other gear.

At an Oct. 25 meeting, Zaveruha and Pelletier said that under former Police Chief Daniel Galvis’ direction, the Shelburne Control dispatch center was instructed not to notify the Fire Department on first tones for emergency medical calls in town.

According to Pelletier, the Fire Department has a dozen members who are all certified first responders.

Zaveruha said by instructing viable safety personnel not to be notified in the event of an emergency, Galvis “was holding our lives at stake.”

Currently, the Selectboard oversees all public safety in town. The EMS department would be a not-for-profit entity governed by the Selectboard under the structure of the Fire Department.

“The Fire Department acting as an umbrella over EMS provides a more efficient use of the limited resources of personnel and finances,” Zaveruha said. “With the overlapping qualifications, EMS can be supported by the Fire Department by providing personnel, continuing education and financial backing through grants that are available to the Fire Department.”

EMS can be a standalone entity in town. However, because of its small population, Leyden “doesn’t have the numbers or funds” to support a town-owned ambulance service without financial support from the state or federal level. For the foreseeable future, she said, Leyden EMS will provide medical services to patients during the “golden hour” — meaning from the time an injury or illness occurs until an ambulance service can assume care of the patient.

“Fortunately, we had our club in the works when major shifts to our town’s public safety system happened recently,” Zaveruha said. “Now that we’re at that pivotal junction, decisions have to be made.”

Galvis and his wife, Police Capt. Gilda Galvis, both gave their immediate retirement notice on Oct. 28, just a few days after the Selectboard shared the results of an Oct. 18 executive session meeting with Dan Galvis to review racist, misogynistic and xenophobic content from emails he shared with other town employees and officers between 2015 and 2016.

In the Galvises’ absence, the Selectboard intends to offer Lt. Mike Aiken, as the most senior officer, the position of officer-in-charge. Discussions are continuing regarding long-term leadership for the department. The Leyden and Bernardston Selectboards met in executive session on Wednesday to discuss the potential of a regional policing agreement.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluc@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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