Chilmark makes changes on Tri-Town ambulance committee
Unhappy with a decision by the Tri-Town Ambulance committee to retain surplus funds from the 2009 fiscal year and to use the money to increase incentive payments to EMTs, two of the three Chilmark selectmen pressed for changes in town oversight of the ambulance committee at a meeting of the selectmen on July 7.
The occasion for discussion of the ambulance committee decision was the need to make the annual appointment to the Tri-Town committee.
Selectman Warren Doty favored the reappointment of Mary Boyd. Citing the need for more financial oversight, selectmen Frank Fenner Jr. and board chairman J.B. Riggs Parker wanted a change.
Following a discussion and agreement that the position would best be filled by a selectman, the board appointed Mr. Parker.
Mr. Fenner, in the discussion surrounding the appointment, criticized the ambulance committee's June 22 decision to disburse unspent money to EMTs without consulting member town officials, according to a review of the taped portion of the meeting.
"I was stunned and very concerned," Mr. Fenner said, "over the process used to disburse funds all of a sudden, at a time when the selectmen, and the finance committee worked as hard as they possibly could all winter long to save dollars, or nickels, and whatever we could off the budgets. To see $20,000 go up like this," he said with a snap of his fingers, "is a little stunning to me. It would be in the best interest of the town to have a selectmen keep an eye on it."
"It's time to do it differently," said Mr. Parker. "This is a big department now, a big part of our budget."
The Tri-town service assessment for each member town in the 2010 fiscal year, which began on July 1 is $95,706.
In a story published on July 2, "Tri-Town Ambulance awards extra pay," The Times reported that at a meeting on June 22, the Tri-Town Ambulance Committee voted to distribute most of a $20,835 unused FY 2009 balance in the committee's incentive pay account to Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) who had served during the year.
The vote of the seven-member committee that represents Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury was unanimous and came against a backdrop of fiscal restraint in the three member up-Island towns.
No finance committee members reached by The Times were aware of the Tri-Town Ambulance committee action, but several expressed concern about the decision to distribute the unspent money at the same time that towns were asking department heads to cut spending and return previously authorized funds to the general treasuries, to make up for expected shortfalls in revenues.
All three Chilmark selectmen attended the June 22 meeting of the ambulance committee. Mr. Doty split with his fellow selectmen over the appropriateness of the Tri-Town committee vote.