Agreement for Valley ambulance coverage 'mostly finished'

Thursday May 2, 2013

HALIFAX -- The Selectboard met with Deerfield Valley Rescue on April 29 to continue plans on the eventual takeover of ambulance coverage in town.

"It went pretty well," said Halifax Selectboard Chairwoman Edee Edwards. "We got an agreement mostly finished."

The agreement discussed is set to begin in the town's upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1. For the remainder of this fiscal year, the town of Halifax has already entered into an interim agreement, which will begin on May 15 and last until June 30.

Whitingham Ambulance Services Inc. was operating on a 90 day conditional license since January. The suspension of its regular license occurred because of its long response times and dwindling membership.

After several discussions, WASI was left with no other option than to turn its coverage over to another organization.

On April 1, Whitingham and Halifax Selectboards met with representatives of WASI and Deerfield Valley Rescue to discuss the future takeover of ambulance coverage in both towns.

Attorney Jeff Spencer, who represented WASI at that meeting, advised for both towns to begin developing relationships with Deerfield Valley Rescue. He said it would take WASI six to 12 months to dissolve as a corporation.

It is not yet in writing, but May 15 looks like the date that WASI will disband.

"We met with WASI within the last couple of years discussing how we could help them out," said Deerfield Valley Rescue Business Manager Heidi Taylor.

She said most recently, Deerfield Valley Rescue has met with WASI about two or three different times in regards to its disbanding. One concern has been a new ambulance acquired through a grant, which WASI may be handing over to Deerfield Valley Rescue.

"We have communications back and fourth with their vice president and their attorney," Taylor said.

The Whitingham Selectboard has obtained a proposal from Deerfield Valley Rescue and should be meeting with the organization sometime next week.

On April 29, the Halifax Selectboard worked with Deerfield Valley Rescue in editing copies of the agreement for the upcoming fiscal year, which began circulating in earlier weeks.

"We had the new documentation from (Deerfield Valley Rescue)," said Edwards. "I e-mailed them some proposals and some comments prior to the meeting. We did look mostly at what they had done."

Deerfield Valley Rescue had drafted the agreement. Since Halifax already has an agreement with Rescue Inc., the board had some thoughts on what a new agreement might look like.

The board wanted to know when to expect reports from the organization and made sure everybody involved understood the language. Some wording needed clarification.

A long-term strategy was another thing that the Halifax Selectboard wanted to make sure would be established. This was in relation to the town's "population density, small number of (emergency) calls and physical location," Edwards said.

"We're on the edge of the state, which makes it a little more of a challenge to serve our community than some of the other (towns)," she added. "I think we had a really good conversation about the same concerns."

Deerfield Valley Rescue currently covers Wilmington, West Dover, East Dover, Somerset, Searsburg and areas of Marlboro and Stratton.

Edwards said the board expects to have signatures on the agreement at its next meeting on May 7.

"The big thing for us is it feels good to know the plan is going forward," she said. "There's a lot of entities involved. For the town of Halifax, we're feeling more comfortable that the citizens know they're going to get ambulance service."

Next week, Deerfield Valley Rescue hopes to meet with the Whitingham Selectboard to finalize an agreement.

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


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