Board considers rescue squad funding

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BENNINGTON — Select Board members will meet during their January budget talks with Bennington Rescue Squad representatives to hammer out funding for the coming year.

Board members, during a meeting with representatives with the nonprofit ambulance service on Tuesday, were warm to the idea of including funding to to the squad via a line item in the fiscal 2019 budget.

The BRS intends to request $207,459 from the town to support its operations, said Executive Director Forest Weyen, who noted that's what voters approved at the March annual town meeting.

Whether that will be a single line item is up in the air.

"If the board finds common ground with the squad, it could be put in the budget as a line item," Town Manager Stuart Hurd said. Or, members could negotiate with the squad's administration and agree to a smaller figure appearing on the ballot.

Chairman Tom Jacobs, towards the end of a nearly two-hour meeting, took a straw poll from board members. The consensus was that the squad should be included in the town budget.

A funding request for $207,459 was placed on the ballot by the squad through a petition drive, following talks with the Select Board concerning annual budget deficits the squad was running and had been covering through the use of reserve funds.

The squad doesn't have to petition this year: Under a new appropriations request policy members adopted last month, organizations that received funding at town meeting in March, and are seeking level funding this coming March, don't have to petition.

That request would be level in the coming year. And Weyen said the same per capita request, about $12.13 per person, will be made of Woodford and Shaftsbury.

A long-term solution should be that the squad is part of budget, said Brian Murphy, vice chairman for the BRS board of directors.

He said the organization had "cut capital expenditures to nothing last year because we realized it wasn't a sustainable model."

Weyen said the squad has also revised its payment agreement for advanced life support (ALS) services to nearby communities, including some in Rensselaer County. When those agencies need a higher level of service, the squad provides a parameidc, he said. Those were revised after meeting with Bennington officials last year; Weyen said that that Bennington, Woodford and Shaftsbury residents can't subsidize those ALS services in other towns.

Vice-Chairman Donald Campbell requested information relating to financials and calls for service in 2017.

"If you follow the budget you have a $62,000 surplus," he said. "That would affect me and how I think we should vote for this."

Member Jim Carroll asked for information about salary ranges for employees.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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