Wanted: EMTs who also mow grass, perform DPW work

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LANESBOROUGH — Wanted: Two emergency medical technicians to save lives — and mow grass. Come this summer, Lanesborough could be paying two EMTs who could also help tackle pending DPW projects while being ready at a moment's notice in case of an emergency call.

"If we hire these people, we'll cover the busiest part of the day," said Town Manager Paul Sieloff on Monday night.

The town has been struggling to find ways to cover EMT calls during the work week, when members of the volunteer crew are typically working.

EMTs in Lanesborough don't work scheduled shifts; volunteers carry a paging device that alerts them to calls, and respond on an as-available basis.

If volunteers do not respond to two separate notifications within four minutes, dispatch will send a backup service — in Lanesborough's case, that is usually County Ambulance.

"There have been times people have had to wait up to two hours for an ambulance," Selectman Henry Sayers said.

The combined position is the town's latest attempt to resolve the coverage issue.

A year ago, Lanesborough leaders suggested hiring County Ambulance to answer calls from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with local EMTs working the other 12 hours. But the Fire Department, which oversees the ambulance squad, rejected the idea, finding it would be too confusing for the dispatcher to determine which ambulance crew should be called out.

The town also tried encouraging employees already on the town payroll to take EMT classes, but there were no takers.

Sieloff proposed the dual positions Monday during the Finance Committee's initial review of the town's Department of Public Works budget for fiscal 2019. The committee also took a first look at the police and fire departments' planned spending for the budget year starting July 1.

Voters will have the final say on the entire town spending plan during the annual town meeting in June.

Sieloff has discussed the EMT staffing solution with the Select Board, but the concept seemed to catch Stephen Wentworth of the Finance Committee off guard.

"I understand we need EMTs," he acknowledged. "It sounds like we're hiring two full-time people when I haven't heard we need the [DPW] help."

DPW Director William Decelles and Sieloff replied the new hires will take over the summer mowing and tackle projects that have been on the to-do list for some time. Since the added personnel will handle the seasonal duties, the town will save $17,000 by eliminating the need for summer help.

Sieloff on Tuesday said the new employees would likely earn a $35,000 annual salary, not including benefits. He believes the net added cost is worth the money to ensure weekday staffing of the ambulance.

"This is a public safety issue," he said.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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