Rescue, Inc. headquarters in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)
Rescue, Inc. headquarters in Brattleboro. (Zachary P. Stephens/Reformer file photo)

PUTNEY -- The Selectboard has scheduled a special pre-town meeting discussion Wednesday to present voters with details on proposed changes to the town's ambulance service.

The Selectboard is recommending that Putney hire Golden Cross Ambulance Service of Claremont, N.H., after working with Rescue Inc. for almost 50 years.

Golden Cross has offered to provide 24-hour ambulance service to Putney for $36,447, about $22,000 less than the contract Rescue Inc. proposed.

Rescue Inc. proposed an annual fee of $58,768 for fiscal year 2015.

The Selectboard decided to include the Golden Cross service in this year's General Fund Budget and the board will discuss the issue at Wednesday night's Selectboard meeting.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

"The Selectboard is recommending that the town go with Golden Cross, and they have demonstrated this by putting them in the proposed budget," said Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard. "We want to have a pre-town meeting discussion because we know this is an issue people are concerned about."

The proposed change will also be discussed at Town Meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, March 4, at 10 a.m. at Putney Central School.

At Town Meeting the Selectboard will present the budget, and if voters want to retain the services of Rescue Inc. a majority will have to reject the budget.

Then a motion will have to be made to add $22,000 back into the budget, with the suggestion that the Selectboard hire Rescue Inc. one more year.

Town meeting voters can not direct the board how to spend money, but adding the money back in will encourage Selectboard members to stick with Rescue Inc.

Prior to including Golden Cross in the proposed FY 15 budget the board heard from representatives from both companies.

Putney Fire Chief Tom Goddard also looked at both companies, weighing the prices and services, and Goddard recommended that the town drop Rescue Inc, and begin receiving ambulance service from Golden Cross.

"Tom talked to both ambulance services and the decision was made because the services are so close in what they offer," Stoddard said. "Price was a huge factor in why the board made their decision."

Golden Cross, which also provides service to Rockingham and Westminster, has a garage in Westminster with three ambulances.

"We want people to have a chance to ask questions and discuss this before Town Meeting," Stoddard said. "It is a big change."

A representative from Rescue Inc. is expected to be at Wednesday night's meeting.

Stoddard said there were communication issues between her office and Golden Cross and Golden Cross will not be at the meeting Wednesday.

"This is a public presentation to let people know there are two options," said Golden Cross owner Dale Girard. "We are ready to help out if that is what Putney decides they want."

"The people of Putney and all of the towns we serve benefit from the collaboration of our towns," Rescue Inc. interim Director Drew Hazelton said. "It's the total collaborative package that allows Rescue to offer the most comprehensive health and safety net for this area."

At Wednesday night's meeting Stoddard also is expected to give a summary of the FY 15 budget and discuss town meeting issues that will be debated Tuesday. CORRECTION - In this article, the Reformer stated incorrectly that if voters want to retain the services of Rescue Inc., a majority will have to reject the entire budget, followed by a motion to add $22,000 back into the budget. In fact, the motion to approve the budget itself can be amended by motions to increase or decrease any line item. After consideration of any such motions, the budget motion, as amended, is then voted on.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.