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Sunderland special Town Meeting votes unanimously for South County Emergency Medical Service

A total 76 people turned out and voted to upgrade the town’s EMS service from basic to paramedic.

“We need this service,” said resident Kathy Ryan Gagnon, whose husband recently had to use the ambulance. “It’s like an insurance you hope to hell you never have to use. You want the best you can get. I’m paying my $42.”

Residents agreed to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with Deerfield and Whately to establish the regional EMS and pay $155,366 for their share of the service for the remaining year.

Deerfield’s share is $255,488, and Whately’s is $83,735.

Though the Select Boards in the three towns do not need voters’ approval to enter into an inter-municipal agreement, they are asking residents anyway due to the significance of the partnership.

Sunderland’s vote follows Whately, which Tuesday also overwhelmingly voted to join the service.

The towns are now one step away from creating a regional 24/7 paramedic ambulance service — a proposal they have worked on for more than two years.

A primary ambulance would be based at the South Deerfield fire station with a backup at the Sunderland Public Safety Complex until the towns find a permanent home.

The final vote is now up to Deerfield. The largest of the three towns which would pay 51.76 percent of the cost will have the last vote on Oct. 28.

If all three towns approve the proposal, the service would likely start in January.

Which way Deerfield will vote is hard to predict. At its special Town Meeting, residents will be asked to choose between the regional service and an expanded local option for $35,000 a year less.

One of the major hurdles for approval in Deerfield is the membership of the regional service’s Board of Oversight. The Select Boards and EMS directors have proposed equal membership with each town getting two voting members. As the fiscal agent, Deerfield would get an additional nonvoting member.

Many residents, however, believe Deerfield should have more of the votes on the oversight board because the town would pay the majority of the cost.

The projected full-year budget for the fiscal year from July 2014 to June 2015 would be $749,595. The town assessment would be $387,990 for Deerfield, $235,972 for Sunderland and $125,632 for Whately.

In Sunderland, the service would add 21 cents to the tax rate. The approximate annual impact for a home valued at $275,000 is $57.75.

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