Monday March 11, 2013

HALIFAX - The Halifax Selectboard has been talking with Deerfield Valley Rescue about the possibility of the organization taking over providing service to the Halifax and Whitingham area after Whitingham Ambulance Service Inc. was put on probation. All of those involved are coming up with a plan.

"There was discussion about the opportunity of a merger," said Selectboard member Edee Edwards, "and having the Whitingham Ambulance transfer its assets and having Deerfield Valley Rescue take over the area and use those assets."

The Halifax Selectboard met with the ambulance service members on March 6. They talked about some of the issues that have been hurting the ambulance service.

With declining membership and late response calls, WASI had been put on probation for three months. The organization’s response time has been considered late due to stricter requirements for operating an ambulance service.

The average wait for an ambulance from WASI had recently been 22 minutes. As a result, the state gave WASI a conditional license for 90 days.

In January, WASI proposed to the Halifax Selectboard some ideas to keep the service intact, which included a tax increase that would essentially pay for full-time staffing for the service with licensed EMTs as well as housing for its members in Jacksonville. Christina Moore, who recently became president of WASI, told the Reformer in January that she also mentioned the possibility of asking for funding from the state to the board.


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"People have spent a lot of years trying to keep (WASI) alive," said Moore. "The towns were appreciative, but it’s time for a new model, with more revenue and larger communities. (WASI) was too small to service in too small of a community."

As the end of the probation period comes closer, the board is looking for ways to still have service nearby. If Deerfield Valley Rescue does not end up servicing the area, residents of Halifax and Whitingham could end up having to wait to receive an ambulance from neighboring towns such as Brattleboro, Wilmington and Colrain, Mass. It could take up to an hour for these towns’ services to reach Halifax and Whitingham.

"Once we’re assured the few towns will be covered by Deerfield Valley Rescue, our board will meet and talk about donating (the equipment) to Deerfield Valley Rescue and other appropriate agencies," said Moore, who could not make it to the Selectboard meeting on March 6.

The board and rescue workers decided to meet again on April 1 to have another discussion on the matter.

The Halifax Selectboard also decided to have a special meeting before its regular scheduled meeting on March 14. Edwards said the board wanted to start getting through "an upcoming list" of agenda items and "re-organize."

"There’s plenty to discuss before our next regular meeting," she said.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.