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Sue Bush
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Renners Donate Land To Pownal Rescue Squad

By Susan Bush
06:13PM / Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pownal Rescue Squad members participated during a major, multi-agency emergency response drill last year. [file photo]
Pownal, Vt. - The Pownal Rescue Squad now owns acreage suitable as a new headquarters building site thanks to the generosity of town residents George and Helen Renner.

On Friday, the Renners and rescue squad leadership finalized an agreement that shifted ownership of a .95-acre lot along Ladd and Banister roads from the elderly couple to the non-profit organization.

The donated land has an assessed value of about $35,000, said Scott Feathers, chief of the rescue squad.

"We cannot stress enough how much we appreciate the generosity of George and Helen and the importance of what they've done for us", he said during an afternoon telephone interview.

George Renner said that he and his wife were aware the rescue service needed a space to build or create a new headquarters.

"[The rescue squad] has been looking for a site for a long time," he said. "They need the space."

And the donated site does have a benefit to the donors, George Renner quipped.

"It works out pretty good for us; it's right across the street," he said.

The Church Street building that once housed the squad was sold by the Pownal Protective Fire Association for $275,000 to Brian O'Neil of Brian o'neil Landscaping Services in January. The rescue squad is presently sharing space at the Pownal Protective Fire Association fire house on Route 346.

It's a pretty tight fit, Feathers said.
"It's maxed out over there, and [the PPFA] are cramped with us in there," he said.

The rescue squad owns another donated property in the town but the property size was reduced after state workers performed some highway work and is too small to build on, Feathers said.

Different Perspective

Town Selectman Stephen Kauppi has been advocating to build a new town hall/rescue squad building at the site of the former Bartels Lodge, which burned about two years ago. The property is owned by the town. Kauppi said he believes that several rescue squad members wanted to be at that site because it is located in the center of town.

"I believe we could build a multiplex, with the Town Hall and the rescue squad in there," he said. "We need a new town hall and the rescue squad needs a new home. The town doesn't have any money [to build a new town hall] and I don't want to hit the taxpayer. The rescue squad has about $250,000 that's accumulated over the years and if we could get them to join us, we could go to the state, we could look for matching grants, and guess what, you've got a building. And then the rescue squad could give the land back to the Renners."

Surprising Criticism

Kauppi emphatically stressed that the Renners' donation is extremely generous and that the couple has always acted in the best interest of the town and its people.

"I just think it would be good to have the rescue squad back in the town center," he said. "We'd have them drive right out onto Route 7 through an old section of road. But I have heard some surprising criticism from people, and I really thought this idea was the best thing next to sliced bread. I still want to pursue this but I understand that many people are not supportive and I do not want to see the rescue squad left out in the cold. I want the best for the rescue squad. I think that people who work this hard doing what they do shouldn't have to worry about a place to be."

Something Must Be Done This Year

Feathers said that the amount of time and "red tape" involved with the Bartels Lodge site would likely create a situation too cumbersome and too lengthy for the rescue squad's situation.

"We're in a position where we have to do something this year," he said.

Feathers said that any building project will mean hiring an architect and a site engineer. Rescue squad leadership had already acquired one construction estimate and discovered that the squad coffers are about $150,000 shy of the estimated $410,000 cost.

And the estimate included no site work, Feathers noted.

"We're starting to talk to local contractors and carpenters to see if we can get some local support [with construction]," Feathers said. "We're hoping that people who can come out and help us will."

Operating an ambulance service is costly, Feathers said.

Rescue Squad Operations

The Pownal Rescue Squad does not bill uninsured individuals for ambulance calls, and also does not bill if they are called but the individual refuses transport to a hospital, he said. The insurance company of those with health insurance is billed for services but insurance companies pay only a portion of the total cost and the rescue squad accepts that portion as full payment, Feathers said.

"Our budget last year was $70,000 and we ask the town [via a ballot article during the yearly town election] for $30,000," Feathers said. "We've kept it at that for the past six, seven years. We get the rest from donations and from what we do get paid for our calls."

The rescue squad has been criticized because it does not provide 24-hour-a-day, seven-day a week coverage to the town. The Village Ambulance Service in Williamstown, Mass. provides emergency medical services to the town from 6 a.m. to about 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the Pownal rescue squad members provide coverage during the overnight hours as well as 24-hour weekend and holiday coverage. The Bennington rescue squad also assists the town with emergency medical services, Feathers said.

Coverage issues are rooted in the all-volunteer workforce and the significant time commitment needed to meet state emergency medical technician standards, Feathers said. An EMT basic level class requires 85 hours of class time and a class for intermediate level EMTs means an additional 145 hours of instruction. Then, students must pass a state test and earn certification, he said.

"For basic EMT, the class starts in the fall and you are in school until January," he said.

Paid Positions Researched

The Pownal Rescue Squad is included in a regional mutual aid agreement and has provided assistance to Bennington when asked, he said.

"Yes, they've helped us more than we've been able to help them but we have assisted them," he said.

Feathers said he believes that outside rescue squads respond to about 38 percent of the town's emergency medical calls yearly, while the Pownal Rescue Squad responds to the majority of the town calls.

Rescue squad leaders have researched the costs associated with creating two paid EMT positions so that daytime, weekday coverage could be offered.

But the total cost was between $85,000 and $90,000 per year including wages and health insurance benefits, Feathers said.

The rescue squad volunteer EMT roster now includes six intermediate level EMTs and a certified paramedic, he said.

"Our whole level of care has come up over the past few years," he said.

"And we're always on the look-out for people who are willing to take day shifts," he said. "If we could find the people who would be willing to do it, we would be more than happy to provide the coverage to the town."

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29.
Your Comments
Post Comment
What a wonderful gesture on the part of the Renners! Their dedication to this town is genuine and sincere. This is wonderful news for the rescue squad, and I agree that they are often very unfairly criticized. Not to worry, most of the townsfolk stopped listening to the blowhards years ago. We like and respect the rescue squad.
from: Valon: 06-13 00:00:00-2007

I hope the townspeople of Pownal and the surrounding communities give them all the support they need. The undo negative comments I have heard lately towards the rescue squad, for what they are trying to accomplish has been disappointing and some what embarrassing coming from a Pownal resident.
from: Johnon: 06-13 00:00:00-2007

I believe the Pownal rescue squad does a fine job and deserves community support.
from: Richardon: 06-13 00:00:00-2007

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