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Southern Franklin county towns to weigh regional ambulance proposal

— On May 13, southern Franklin County towns will have a draft agreement and budget for the proposed tri-town regional ambulance service. On that night, Sunderland Town Administrator Margaret Nartowicz and Ambulance Director Robert Ahearn will present the plans to the town’s Board of Selectmen.

Though the specific budget is still being determined, Nartowicz said, “It is expected Sunderland would have enough levy capacity to do a regional service.” For the fiscal year that begins July 1, the town has $33,000 extra in levy capacity.

Uncertainty about the amount of state aid is also holding up the budget.

The draft plans would be a major step forward in the regional planning that began last summer among Deerfield, Whately and Sunderland.

Since that time, the three town administrators and EMS directors have been figuring out a plan to implement a 24-hour, seven-day regional ambulance service based out of the South Deerfield Fire Station for townspeople to consider at a special Town Meeting.

The possible start date would be Jan. 1, Nartowicz said.

In the meantime, local EMS departments have created their own plans to improve service and response time while they wait for the regional proposal.

Deerfield Emergency Management Director Matt Russo proposed two new staffing models that would reduce missed calls and turn the local service into a 24-hour, seven-day paramedic ambulance service.

For a 24/7 paramedic staffing model, it would cost an extra $127,864. A 16-hour, seven-day paramedic staffing model would cost $95,045.

The Deerfield Selectmen last night voted to continue the present service for $279,386 for next year in the hopes that a regional plan would be implemented. The Finance Committee supported the rollover amount as well.

Meanwhile, Whately EMTs prefer to keep their department autonomous. To improve its town service, Deputy Fire Chief Gary Stone proposed changing the staffing model and offering higher stipends.

It would cost the town an extra $34,000 on top of its $56,143 ambulance budget for next year to pay for the upgraded local service. Though townspeople will be asked to fund the budget boost on May 9 at Town Meeting, the regional plan remains an option once the budget is complete.

“The town would have an increase to the ambulance budget this year until we come up with finalized plans for the regional service,” Town Administrator Lynn Sibley said.

Sibley said the selectmen have not made a decision yet. Sunderland and Deerfield could do it without the third town.

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