LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Town Manager Paul Sieloff is suggesting the town hire EMTs to work in the highway department.
The hope is that the town will then have two emergency medical technicians available during the days to answer calls for service. When they are not answering the calls, they will work on projects with the Highway Department. That would help curb a problem with the ambulance service's struggles to have volunteers available.
"We could really eliminate a lot of the problem. I don't want to wait for a crisis to happen," Sieloff said.
The ambulance service has been struggling in recent years. The company is keeping up with the certifications but hasn't been able to save money to replace the ambulance — a cost that the Board of Selectmen hopes won't fall back to them. More recently, even other ambulance services have been backed up on calls and unable to respond.
"We recently had a situation where we had to go through four ambulance companies before we got one," Sieloff said.
The service has been plagued with missed calls because of a lack of availability of volunteers and more and more patients being unable to pay the bills. That had led to a drop in revenue. In Lanesborough, there are a dozen EMTs on the roster, but many are not active and about half are over the age of 58.
"It is almost like they are trying to do all this with one arm tied behind their back," Sieloff said. "They're getting a little older so they are not able to do as many runs as they used to do. It takes a lot."
He added, "We don't have a tremendously large pool to pull from and the ones we do have aren't able to go out and do as much as they used to do."
Sieloff gave an example of the winter. Currently, it takes the highway department seven to eight hours to plow all of the roads. Recently, two trucks had gone out of service and that slowed the process even longer. With two additional people available, they could use smaller trucks and help with plowing. Should they be an ambulance call, they could stop plowing and head to the Fire Station to take over ambulance service.
The same can go during the summer, when the Highway Department has plenty of road repairs and drainage issues to solve.
"We have money in the budget. We could eliminate the seasonal employees and put it toward this so it wouldn't be a tremendous amount of money," Sieloff said.
Sieloff said the other options would be to hire an EMT, but the call volume doesn't support full-time service. Or, the department could hire police officers who are EMTs, but the department had been somewhat resistant to that because it could possibly leave the town with limited law enforcement protection.
Sieloff believes that if the two employees were on during the day, that could allow the other volunteers to focus more on the nights and weekends. Sieloff suggested that maybe even one of the volunteer firefighters could be interested.
In other business, the Planning Board has completed a proposed recreational marijuana bylaw.
"It pretty much follows the liquor store regulations," Chairman Jamie Szczepaniak told the Selectmen. "It gets it out of the RA zone, the residential zone."
The law restricts marijuana businesses to two — the same number of liquor stores in town — and sets certain business districts in which an establishment can be located. The bylaw will need to be approved by a town meeting vote.
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