Manchester Select Board to discuss rescue squad financing


MANCHESTER — A funding mechanism that could put the Manchester Rescue Squad on a more predictable financial footing is among the topics the Manchester Select Board will take up when it next meets at 7 p.m. on Oct. 18 at Town Hall.

The rescue squad is not a Manchester town agency, despite the fact its ambulances and staff share a home with the police and fire departments. It's an independent nonprofit agency which also serves Dorset, part of Winhall, Danby and Mount Tabor.

The rescue squad goes to each town when it needs to raise funds to close operating budget gaps or purchase new equipment. The proposal the Select Board will discuss on Tuesday — rescue squad treasurer Jim Salsgiver emphasized that it's not all set in stone — is to create a municipal finance board representing all five towns served by the rescue squad. That board would govern the financial relationship between the rescue squad and the towns.

That finance board would determine an assessment for each town, and the amounts would then go to each town's select board and Town Meeting voters for approval. There would be two separate funding formulas: One for the yearly operating budget, based upon population, and another for capital improvements, based upon the number of service calls

"What we're looking at now is something that is well-defined and includes all the towns together, something very transparent," Salsgiver said.

"We want to put a board together that has all five towns represented," he continued. "We want to make sure the towns are comfortable supporting our requests, and that it makes sense for their towns in the context of the overall picture."

The Manchester Rescue Squad has come a long way since — according to its website — it was born with Mrs. E.L. Grondahl of Dorset's gift of a Cadillac ambulance in 1964. That gift was offered as a way to supplement the existing ambulance service — then provided by Brewster's Funeral Service — and provide residents transportation for emergency medical attention, regardless of ability to pay.

From those roots, the rescue squad has grown into 28 full-time, per-diem and volunteer paramedics, critical care paramedics and EMTs, staffed 24 days a week, seven days a year.

But with increased regulation and training requirements comes additional costs. Though the rescue squad has benefited from generous local support in donations and annual subscriptions, insurance reimbursements don't cover the cost of service calls, Salsgiver said.

On Tuesday morning, after a brief Select Board meeting called to make three corrections to the Grand List, chairman Ivan C. Beattie said the rescue squad is important to the town and it's future.

"We have a great relationship with them. They serve a vital need and its important to us as a community that they remain solvent and able to do their job," Beattie told the Journal on Tuesday.

The rescue squad is a regional entity — and the Select Board's first responsibility is to Manchester taxpayers, Beattie added.

"We'll land on something that works for everybody," he said of the upcoming discussion. "But from our perspective it needs to work for Manchester, and that's what our constituents expect out of us."

In other business, the board will consider sewer rates for fiscal 2017 and hear an Act 46 update from Jon Wilson, the chairman of the Bennington-Rutland Supervisory Union.

The Select Board is also expected to take up three more revised chapters of the town's ordinances, including commerce, solid waste and littering, and solid waste variable rate pricing. It will also review the fee schedule for violations of town ordinances.

The commerce ordinance includes a provision banning the sale of marijuana in Manchester. Earlier this year, the state Senate passed a bill ending the prohibition of marijuana for adults 21 years and older, replacing it with laws that would regulate and tax production and sale. The state House did not go along with the plan, but both chambers agreed to study it further.

The town ordinance up for discussion on Tuesday leaves no room for ambiguity.

It reads, "It shall be illegal to sell or distribute marijuana in the town of Manchester," and makes it a first-degree civil violation to violate that ordinance.

When the ordinance proposal was written, the Select Board was expecting the state marijuana legalization bill would pass, and potentially come to a Town Meeting vote for local approval.

Now that the legislation is on hold, "The Select Board may opt to proactively ban it," O'Keefe said.

Contact Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.


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