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Adams Ambulance board members review a change in bylaw with EMT Hussein Hamdan to elect two new members on Tuesday, one of several votes taken by the membership.

Adams Ambulance Votes to Keep Operating; Cheshire Switches to NB EMS

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The members of Adams Ambulance Service voted on Tuesday to continue to operate even as Cheshire moved to replace it as the primary provider of emergency services.
The ambulance service earlier this month notified the Department of Public Health that it would cease operations on Dec. 31 because of its financial condition.
But last week, employees appealed to a joint meeting of the three towns in the service's coverage area to delay a vote to shift to Northern Berkshire EMS. There was a plan, they said, to sell their building, replenish the accounts and continue operating. 
The towns did delay, at least until Tuesday night when the Cheshire Select Board voted 5-0 to transition to Northern Berkshire EMS as the primary provider. The Adams Selectmen are scheduled to vote on Thursday; the Savoy Select Board has not yet scheduled any vote.
"There's just too many unknowns, there's a lot of questions that haven't been answered," said Cheshire Select Board Chair Shawn McGrath on Wednesday. "Northern Berkshire has a strong state-approved plan in place to expand and absorb the needs of the town."
Officials in the three towns have been concerned about gaps in coverage when, or if, AAS should close. In their letter to DPH, the service's board had indicated that the ambulance might close before the end of the year.
About 20 members of Adams Ambulance — households that have subscribed or donated to the service and a number of seemingly current or past employees — met in one of the service's bays on Tuesday to determine whether it was feasible to keep going. They decided it was.
Their plans hinge on the sale of the building that will zero out the service's more than $200,000 deficit and the $80,000 left of the mortgage. President Fred Balawender said the interested buyer's promised a 20-year lease at a "nominal" feel. 
If they can start fresh, the next steps are to be more aggressive in recouping delinquent payments, actively go after grants and ask the towns for financial support. 
The key component is if the state allows the operation to continue. Balawender said the board had requested in writing that the letter it sent earlier this month be rescinded. 
One member noted it could take several years for resolve the situation. "What stops us from doing this all over again in five years?" she asked. 
The board members acknowledged it could take time and that a more lasting solution would be reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid that matched the cost. 
Another factor is the number of non-transport calls that can't be billed. These are often for wellness checks, for instance someone has fallen and needs help getting up. Insurance can't be billed and often the people getting the service are in not in a situation to pay anything. 
"That's part of the cost the town's could absorb ... because the town residents are getting the services," said EMT Michael Mullany. "The reality right now in the forseeable future is we have to do that. We have no other option ... we can't leave someone lying on the floor who can't pay for an ambulance."
The nonprofit also voted in two new members by ballot to fill out its five-member board. However, candidates Ray Ferrin and Sam Hungate had recently been employed by the ambulance so a vote was taken to strike out the portion of the bylaw stating an employee must be separated for at least a year before serving on the board.
It also voted for three resolutions for the board 1) to take all "reasonable and feasible steps" to keep the service operating, 2) to go forward with the membership drive and 3) to enter into negotiations for the sale of the building with terms of at least a five-year lease. 
The membership drive letters will go out and Tracy Cameron reported on her efforts for a drive-through spaghetti fundraiser through Bounti-Fare. She said she's received a lot of supportive comments on social media but had not sold many tickets yet. 
There was a long discussion about Hawley, which subscribes with the AAS for coverage. Northern Berkshire has indicated it will not take over coverage of Hawley and that other closer towns such as Charlemont are in a better position to do so. Hawley Select Board member Hussain Hamdan, an EMT with Adams, said this will cause a problem for his community.
In the meantime, Northern Berkshire EMS is moving ahead with its state-approved preparations to staff at least one ambulance in Adams and a possible one in Cheshire. It also has been coordinating with the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office for dispatch services. 
McGrath said residents should know that response times in Cheshire won't change much and that the board felt it was making the prudent decision. He assumed that Adams officials would be doing their own due diligence before voting. 
"We just didn't want to wake up one day and say, 'oh, we need to scramble and backfill coverage because Adams decided all our plans,'" he said. "They have a lot of hoops to jump through as it is because they have to get their original notice rescinded that they were closing ... there's just a lot of operational changes that need to be made that we don't really have firm answers as to how those changes would be made or what changes would be made."

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Adams Allocates Additional Funds To Progress Glen Outdoor Center Solar

Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The selectmen unanimously voted to transfer $25,000 from the capital reserve fund to pay for a geotechnical survey needed to install solar panels on the Greylock Glens Outdoor Center campus.
Town Administrator Jay Green told the selectmen Wednesday, Feb. 21, that although state funding has covered much of the actual construction of the Outdoor Center, there are still some ancillary costs the town has to sort out, including the installation of solar panels to make the building a net-zero-energy building. 
"Once the funding came through the state it was enough to put up four walls and a roof, but there are some other components of the building including the solar," Green said. "It had never been fully fleshed out and it was hard to predict when we would strike gold and get the funding."
In 2022, the state committed $6.5 million to fund the construction of the Greylock Glen Outdoor Center. Since then, the town has gathered additional funding for the $8.3 million project The outdoor center is expected to open later this year, and the camping facility within the next couple of years. The town is developing about 50 acres of the 1,000-acre glen as a recreational and educational hub.
Green said, working with the architects, it was agreed that it would be best to place solar panels on the to-be-built carports, and the town partnered with the company Soltec to explore implementation.
Greylock Glen Outdoor Center Director Michael Wynn said normally Soltec would completely fund the design, implementation, and operation of the solar carports. Ultimately, the town would purchase the solar electricity from Soltec once everything was up and running.
However, Soltec can only expend money after an agreement between the company and the town is passed by a town meeting, which would normally take place in the summer.
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