Stockbridge selectman draws rebuke for outreach on emergency services
STOCKBRIDGE — Selectman Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo has drawn a rebuke from his two colleagues for meeting with the head of the Southern Berkshire Volunteer Ambulance Squad in Great Barrington to discuss potential shared services.
Cardillo is also the fire chief, with responsibilities that include supervision of emergency medical services. The town has no ambulance of its own, but is served by Lee Ambulance through mutual aid. Stockbridge has a legal agreement with Lee and Lenox to pursue exploration of shared services.
During the weekly working session on Wednesday, Selectman Stephen Shatz recounted a phone call he received from an official of the Southern Berkshire squad about a meeting Cardillo had held there.
"This came as a complete surprise," he said. "I had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen." Shatz said he was asked whether Cardillo was representing the Board of Selectmen at the meeting.
"I said I don't believe there was ever any discussion about this," he added. "I was embarrassed by the phone call, by the lack of knowledge."
He asked Cardillo for an explanation.
"I have no idea why you got the phone call," the fire chief responded. He acknowledged meeting on Tuesday with Bill Hathaway, operations director of Southern Berkshire Ambulance, as he had last year, to discuss the possibility of better emergency medical coverage along with financial savings.
Hathaway was not available for comment.
In addition to Great Barrington, the squad serves Alford, Ashley Falls, Egremont, Housatonic, Monterey, Mount Washington and Sheffield, handling about 4,500 calls annually.
"I was just doing legwork and never mentioned I was doing it for the Selectmen," Cardillo added. He also cited talks he has had with Lee Ambulance "to see what the costs are and to see if it's worth pursuing. It wasn't, but I thought it was my job as medical [director] to see what the answers are and see what's best for the town for coverage and budgets."
Shatz, stressing he was not questioning Cardillo's motivation, cited ongoing discussions with Lee and Lenox "that have significant impact on us" about potential sharing of emergency services.
"It just kind of sends the wrong message to the people [with whom] we're discussing the whole shared-services concept," he added. "I can assure you that your conversation will travel around South County. I feel almost duty-bound to say something to our colleagues in Lee and Lenox" ahead of any news media coverage.
Shatz suggested that Cardillo keep his Selectboard colleagues in the loop "because you're not just simply the fire chief. You're a representative of this board and we wind up having to answer questions about projects we know nothing about."
Selectboard Chairman Charles Gillett reminded the fire chief that "now you're wearing two hats and when you talk to anybody, they really see you in both roles. So if we were able to have a heads-up about it, I think it would be beneficial."
Gillett underlined his commitment to the full concept of shared services with Lee and Lenox — a commitment shared by Cardillo and Shatz, he pointed out. "I don't want to do anything that will jeopardize that," he added.
Gillett also expressed belief that future agreements among the three towns will save Stockbridge money and enhance emergency medical services coverage in the community.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
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