Wilton officials eye ambulance service ahead of budget season

WILTON – Some changes have been made in the staffing of the ambulance service, and a few more are being considered as the town enters the 2020 budget preparation season.

Director Steve Desrosiers, back after a five-month leave recovering from heart surgery, met with the Select Board on Monday to present an overview of the operation.

Desrosiers began by noting his “debt of gratitude to his command staff while he was recovering. I need to commend my staff.”

The major change, possibly resulting in a deficit, included adding a third person in the ambulance bay to cover a call when the ambulance is already out. That has been increased to four. All proposed expenses are discussed with Town Administrator Paul Branscombe, he said. “We aren’t spending money without town approval.” Desrosiers said spending was approved “after looking at the liability to the town if we can’t answer a call. We need two certified people to staff an ambulance. We have had a difficult time staffing and the money wasn’t in the budget.”

The service had to rely on mutual aid 16 times this year.

The service operates under a ‘revolving fund’ approved by town meeting.

The addition of Greenfield earlier this year caused some problems since the added costs were only estimates.

The service’s new Rapid Response Unit, a smaller vehicle used for first response and frequently housed at the home of the first responder evenings and weekends to save time, has proved effective.

The service has several CPR mannequins which are used by training at all levels, donated in memory of Mary Leavitt, but more are needed.

(Later in the evening, during public comment, resident Deb Mortvedt offered to start a campaign to raise money to purchase them, an offer that was gratefully accepted).

Desrosiers also discussed the need for uniforms. “The town needs to adopt a policy as to what they will supply,” he said. “We need to present a professional appearance.”

Selectman Matt Fish said, in his opinion, the Select Board was “spending too much time with the ambulance” and said management should be turned over to the Ambulance Advisory Committee.

Chairman Kermit Williams disagreed. “The Advisory Committee is just that, advisory. There is a member from each town, and they aren’t experts.”

The service belongs to Wilton, Williams said, “and the other three towns (Lyndeborough, Temple and Greenfield) contract with us. This board has to see that the contracts are fulfilled. We need to go back and redo (intermunicipal agreements). As long as the town owns the service it has to pay the bills.” Prior to the town taking it over, “the service was mostly volunteer. That was a lot cheaper. We need an adequate budget that the other towns agree to, one based on the volume of service, and to build up a fund for the purchase of the future equipment.”

Desrosiers said he thought he was spending too much time with the Selectmen. But, he added, since the service is collecting more payments, “there may not be a deficit. It will be close.”

Desrosiers was welcomed back and thanked for his report.

In other business on Monday, Tom Schultz was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Sewer Commissioners.

Nov. 18, 6 p.m., was chosen for a hearing on changes to town ordinances. The new wording will be posted on the town web site.

A contract for $3,900 was signed with the Turner Group for a study of the new Reservoir Dam. They will return “in about a month” with a proposal.

The board will again on Monday, Oct. 21, 6 p.m., in the Town hall court Room.