Tri-Town Ambulance adds to EMT pay
Against a backdrop of fiscal restraint in the three member up-Island towns, the Tri-Town Ambulance Committee voted, at a meeting on June 22, to distribute most of a $20,835 unused balance in the committee's incentive pay account to Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) who have served during the year.
The vote of the seven-member committee that represents Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury was unanimous. Three of the committee members are also EMTs.
Aquinnah police Chief Randhi Belain, Tri-town chairman, said the practice of disbursing unused incentive pay is not new. He said the benefit helps compensate EMTs fairly.
In conversations with The Times this week, finance committee members in the three towns said they were unaware of the vote. Some of them expressed concern at the way in which the decision was made.
Nearly all of the EMTs and paramedics who operate the well-regarded Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance service are volunteers, but the committee has established a well-defined schedule of stipends to encourage medics to remain on the active roster and to answer emergency calls at all hours. Each medic on the active roster who makes at least five ambulance runs in a year receives a base incentive of $400, according to the schedule approved by the committee.
They receive additional incentive pay, up to $600 more, based on the number of emergency calls they answer. They may also earn additional stipends for daily or weekly tasks, attendance at squad meetings, or for achieving advanced certifications.
The fiscal year 2009 budget, which ended Tuesday, included $53,000 for incentive pay. But after paying the base incentive, and all additional stipends due according to the established schedule, there was $20,835 left in the account, according to a proposal advanced by ALS coordinator Martina Mastromonaco on how the money might be disbursed. In the proposal, Ms. Mastromonaco recommended that medics be paid an additional $20 for each eligible ambulance run he or she made during the year. According to the proposal, there were 750 such eligible ambulance runs in the last fiscal year. After this calculation was complete, with suitable qualifications, the proposal suggested that the remainder of the account, $6,220, be used to repair an "intercept" vehicle used to transport medics. The committee approved that option.
No finance committee members contacted by The Times were aware of the Tri-Town Ambulance Committee action, but several expressed concern about the decision to distribute the unspent money.
During the recent round of annual town meetings, town leaders trimmed cost of living increases for town employees and looked hard for budget savings.