BRATTLEBORO — A study on creating a joint EMS/fire service in Brattleboro is all set to begin.
Town Manager Yoshi Manale said it will look at what staffing, training and equipment is needed for paramedic-level emergency medical services including transport to ensure a smooth transition.
On Tuesday, the Select Board authorized him to sign a contract with AP Triton of Sheridan, Wyoming, to perform the analysis for $38,721.
Brattleboro Fire Chief Len Howard said he spoke with the Williston fire chief, who was happy with AP Triton’s work. He expects the project to take four months and can begin right away.
The fire department has delivered “first-response pre-hospital EMS care” to Brattleboro residents since 2000, according to the initial announcement about the effort. Last month, following a contract dispute with former EMS provider Rescue Inc. of Brattleboro, the Select Board signed a one-year contract with Golden Cross Ambulance of Claremont, N.H., to set up a hybrid model with the fire department to provide a paramedic-level EMS transport service.
With Golden Cross not starting until July 1, board member Tim Wessel wondered if there will be enough data to get a complete view of the situation. Howard said the study will look at population and health insurance data, comparing it with information from Rescue, then generate an estimated revenue and cost for the service.
Manale expressed a desire to get a formula for AP Triton’s conclusions so the town can perform a second analysis with more data from the joint service.
“I want the public to be reassured we don’t see this as the end all be all,” Wessel said.
“It’s always a sample anyway,” Board Vice Chairman Daniel Quipp said.
For public input, Quipp wants to get feedback from residents who received EMS services from the fire department and Rescue Inc. Board Chairman Ian Goodnow said AP Triton will be seeking community involvement.
“The community trust is our job, not their job,” Wessel said. He supported the town hosting a forum.
Board member Elizabeth McLoughlin said the study isn’t just about the financials “but staffing, personnel management, service delivery.
That may be the more crucial element of your EMS service, to judge whether or not fire/rescue works for Brattleboro.”
Board member Jessica Gelter said the study is needed to ensure the cost is viable for the town and community.
Dick DeGray, former board member, questioned the town’s use of $25,000 allocated for the coming fiscal year for a strategic plan for the fire department for the study.
The remaining approximately $13,721 will be spread across the coming fiscal year and the next one.
“For quite a while, we’ve been talking about this strategic plan and the decision on whether or not to create a fire/EMS,” Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland said. “If we’re thinking about a strategic plan that’s not centrally focused on this transition then we’re probably not being responsible.”
Howard said he feels strongly that the study is going to help the department move forward, whether it means going with the proposed model or looking to contract with another ambulance service.
“Maybe the divorce isn’t final. Maybe we can do a reconciliation,” DeGray said, encouraging the board not to get too “bogged down” with community feelings on the issue. “We want to find out if this is financially feasible — is it worth doing or is it worth us cutting a check to Rescue every year and not having headaches?”
Kate O’Connor, former board member who has been critical about the town’s handling of the issue, said she’s happy the study is happening because it will give community members reasoning for confidence in a decision.
Regarding the study, Bob Oeser of Brattleboro told the board he believes that “all options should be on the table.”