CHESTER – The board of selectmen has formally approved the creation of a committee to investigate the feasibility of bringing the town’s ambulance service in house. While board members have said they previously discussed the matter and agreed to the committee, selectman Joe Castricone asked for an official public motion, agreed to by all selectmen present at the Aug. 1 meeting – himself, Jack Cannon and chair Steph Landau.
Board members have made it clear that any decision on changing the current set-up, which has Derry servicing the town for another five years, will not be made overnight, if at all. During public comment resident Leroy Scott asked about the service in light of the Aug. 1 Tri-Town Times front page story explaining the fire department’s reasons for looking into the in-house option. Landau said there wasn’t much more to say about the issue, as it was in its early stages.
Scott had asked for updates on the Derry contract numerous times during negotiations, and said the idea of bringing ambulance service in house was a surprise. Scott is rarely absent from selectmen meetings.
Members of the fire department say the service is worth investigating because they have the necessary expertise and equipment and can handle the work at a cost savings.
After the meeting Landau explained that it was important for the public not to jump to conclusions about whether or when the town is going to take on ambulance service. He said it would be a long process and by the end of it, the town may choose to keep the status quo.
After Castricone’s motion passed, Cannon put a couple of stipulations on the committee. He said he had one criticism of the fire department and it was “death by a thousand cuts” meaning that a long-term plan must be created, not a short-term one that resulted in new problems or unseen issues.
Cannon suggested that a multi-year model be created to fully understand what the town would need to handle the service. It should include the projected population in five and 10 years, and what new equipment would be needed and what equipment would have to be replaced in that time.
“As needs grow, costs grow,” said Cannon. Landau suggested linking up with the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission and the planning board to fully understand the future’s challenges. The board is also looking to get as many people as possible involved in the committee, from town departments to residents. Residents have already contacted members of the board expressing interest in being involved.
In other business at the Aug. 1 meeting:
• RJ Child, 18, was approved by the selectmen as the newest member of the fire department. Chief Rich Antoine spoke for the young man, whose parents have a long history in the fire and rescue service. Child has been working with the department’s Explorer Post for four years and is a good addition to the department, Antoine said.
• The board approved a bid from Palmer Gas/Ermer Oil for propane and #2 fuel oil. The bid price was $3.249 for oil and $1.60 for propane.
• The town, led by police chief Bill Burke, is looking into a new gasoline distributor for a tank that emergency services utilizes. Suburban Propane is currently delivering that product (Suburban recently acquired Difeo Oil and Propane, which the town originally contracted with) but has alerted the town that it plans on getting out of the business by Sept. 1.
Burke has volunteered to take on the work of finding a new supplier, and the board approved of that move.