WASI vice president Christina Moore, president Kathleen Sullivan, and treasurer Bill Moore, as well as other members of the ambulance service, attended the meeting to explain the situation.
Christina Moore said that in the first quarter of 2012 the service was running a $17,000 deficit. She stated that this would not be sustainable. If the ambulance service dissolves, the assets would go to the Whitingham Fire Department. Moore said call volume had been low but is increasing. Readsboro, which had been responsible for two-thirds of the calls, pulled out of the service last year.
Moore said they had approached Deerfield Valley Rescue about merging and they said they would take it under advisement.
Janovsky asked about the full-time person who was originally hired based on the three towns of Readsboro, Halifax and Whitingham being served by WASI. Janovsky asked why the full-time position was still maintained after Readsboro pulled out in 2011. Moore responded that without a paid full-time member during the day the service can come up short for members for calls. Moore said that the records of the Whitingham Ambulance Service had been computerized recently and the service was able to forecast their budget. Moore said that the service will be viable for another year but the trend is not good.
Sullivan said that Rescue Inc. was aware of the situation but was not interested in taking over a small town service.
Lewis Sumner, of Halifax, said Rescue Inc. had quoted the Thomas Hill area because Whitingham did not want to cover that area of Halifax.
Janovsky asked if volunteers could supplant the full-time worker. Moore felt that the move would save money but would make it difficult to make calls. Moore also said that the current funding from the town of Whitingham was predicated on having a paid employee. Alan Twitchell said the terms of the town’s funding could be changed at Town Meeting. Moore said the goal was to increase the ability to handle the daytime calls but that would require more money.
Sullivan said that a merger with Deerfield Valley Rescue would be a good solution. Sullivan informed the board that it is getting more and more difficult for small towns to maintain an ambulance service. Vermont training requirements now call for many hours of training for volunteers which makes it more difficult to keep them.
Janovsky said that Rep. Ann Manwaring should be involved in trying to help get funding for the ambulance services and changing the training mandates in small towns.
Moore said calls cost about $400 each and WASI had only one call in April and four in May. The budget for the Whitingham Ambulance Service is $100,000. The towns of Whitingham and Halifax contribute $30,000 each. Moore said they try to cover this budget through subscriptions, town grants, and calls. Moore also observed that costs are going up and Medicare reimbursements are going down. Moore said that if the town of Whitingham had to completely fund the service it would entail a 3% tax increase for taxpayers.
Most of the Whitingham Ambulance Service volunteers are members of the Halifax EMS. Moore said that this enables Halifax to utilize the Whitingham ambulance for calls.
Board member Karl Twitchell did not know what the town of Whitingham could do to help at this time. Janovsky asked if Whitingham covered Marlboro. Moore responded that there were four houses Whitingham was responsible for in Marlboro and it did not generate much income. Board member Keith Bronson said with Twin Valley High School moving to Whitingham it may make Deerfield Valley Rescue more interested with merging with Whitingham. Moore said the Whitingham Ambulance Service wanted to start the dialogue with the towns involved in order to deal with the situation before it becomes untenable. Bill Moore said that if the number of calls picks up the service could last another year. Twitchell suggested meeting again at the end of this quarter, in September, to see if the situation was improving or deteriorating.
Moore said that she has talked to other Vermont services, and if they were near a ski area they were able to attract volunteers and make money. Other towns, without industry or tourism bases, are suffering the same problems as Whitingham and Halifax. Moore said that the Whitingham Ambulance Service could provide the selectboards of Whitingham and Halifax with a six month report at the beginning of July to show the financial trends. Janovsky stated that this was a state problem; requiring 200 hours of training in order to serve as a volunteer makes it difficult to attract volunteers. Moore said a lot of the problem is Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements being lowered. Moore said that they will have a meeting with Deerfield Valley Rescue to discuss the situation and perhaps come to a resolution. Sullivan stated that the current membership of the Whitingham Ambulance Service and Deerfield Valley Rescue work together in other situations.
Janovsky, acting in his role as road commissioner, presented gravel bids for the coming year. There were bids from Eiler Brothers, Corse Excavating, Mitchell Sand and Gravel, and Zalunzy. Janovsky recommended accepting the Corse Excavating bid and the board passed the motion.
The board reviewed a quote from TAM Inc., a waste management company, for handling the recyclables and trash from the Whitingham Transfer Station. Karl Twitchell made a motion to switch to TAM for a three-year agreement. Alan Twitchell seconded and the board passed the motion. Twitchell cited the lower fees charged by TAM Inc. as the reason for the switch.