Tisbury selectmen discuss EMT needs
The coordinator of Tisbury's emergency medical services told selectmen that the town may soon find itself without enough volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to meet the needs of the community.
In a department report at Tuesday night's board of selectmen's meeting, Jeff Pratt, Tisbury EMT coordinator, warned town officials that the declining numbers of volunteers may make it necessary to hire another full-time staff member next year.
Mr. Pratt said that the decline is a trend he has noted for the past three years. He said finding EMTs to help keep his department fully staffed during the week when many people are working has proven to be increasingly difficult.
The problem is not unique to Tisbury, Mr. Pratt said. He also pointed out that other towns are hiring, with one town staffed with six full-time EMTs and another with four. Tisbury currently has two full-time EMTs year-round and an additional full-time person in the summer.
Selectman Tristan Israel urged Mr. Pratt to make an appeal for volunteers. The next EMT school starts in January, with training Tuesday and Thursday nights and every other Saturday for four months.
"We are always looking for new volunteers, regardless of their availability," Mr. Pratt remarked later. "We are still a predominantly volunteer staff, always in need of and dependent on our volunteers."
Mr. Pratt also asked the selectmen not to dispose of a four-wheel drive Chevy Tahoe soon to be shed by the police department. He said town EMTs could use the Tahoe instead of their personal vehicles when they are asked to assist in other Island towns.
Mr. Pratt told the selectmen that he plans to ask the Finance and Advisory Committee for an additional $12,000 between now and the end of the year, to pay for additional part-time staffing needs.
The selectmen advised Mr. Pratt to have the Tahoe checked by a mechanic as a first step. With regard to his other requests, Tom Pachico, selectman, told him, "I don't know if you will get this all in one year."
Although the selectmen met minus chairman Raymond LaPorte, they were of no mind to keep the discussion short, following an update by John Bugbee, town administrator, on the Water Street Stop & Shop Supermarket parking lot project.
In cooperation with Stop & Shop officials and with the assistance of the town's planning board, selectmen have been working on new traffic and parking patterns for the well-used lot. Mr. Bugbee said Stop & Shop Supermarket officials had agreed to hand off the project to the town and would provide $20,000 for design and $100,000 for actual construction.
Mr. Bugbee's update spurred a volley of discussion between the two selectmen.
Despite having approved a concept for the lot which features perpendicular spaces, Mr. Israel and Mr. Pachico argued back and forth about whether they had agreed to change the entrance at the north side nearest the police station to allow for two-way traffic.
Mr. Israel did not recall that he had made a motion at the September 13 meeting to endorse the perpendicular plan with the two-way change. Mr. Pachico reminded him that the police department and EMTs had concerns about getting their vehicles out of the lot quickly.
Mr. Bugbee told the selectmen that the board had agreed on a concept but wanted to determine if it was feasible. He suggested selectmen move on to the design phase, and let an expert look at the plan to determine if it would work and make suggestions for solving the problems with the emergency vehicles.
Mr. Bugbee will write up a Request for Proposals to select a design firm with expertise in laying out parking lot facilities and landscaping, which the selectmen will consider next month.
In other business, the selectmen reported on a meeting Friday with Steamship Authority (SSA) officials to discuss recent concerns about boat schedules and terminal traffic. The discussion also provided an opportunity for selectmen to once again repeat their claims of unfair treatment by the boatline, SSA member Marc Hanover, and both Island newspapers.
Mr. Israel labeled the meeting "positive" and said that Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, had said he would consider the selectmen's request that the SSA not move the 7:30 pm boat out of Woods Hole to an Oak Bluffs arrival.
Mr. Israel said that the SSA had always met with the selectmen to discuss proposed scheduling changes, but did not include the town in the process this year. He said that Mr. Lamson had assured them that in the future the SSA would try to communicate more closely on these issues.
Mr. Israel was critical of Mr. Hanover for not attending the meeting between Tisbury selectmen and SSA officials. In recent comments, Mr. Israel and Mr. LaPorte had insinuated that Mr. Hanover's support of schedule changes represented a conflict because he is an Oak Bluffs businessman.
Press coverage of that flare-up and disagreements between Mr. Hanover and selectmen over who should pay for terminal police coverage to direct traffic was on the mind of Mr. Pachico.
Mr. Pachico, SSA port council member and town health agent, said he had chastised the two Island newspapers for sensationalizing problems between the selectmen and SSA officials. He offered no specific examples of what that might be.
In working towards a solution, Mr. Pachico said he would support having "a couple more police officers in the summer," but the problem was determining exactly what times they were needed.
He suggested that perhaps Oak Bluffs and Tisbury could share police details during summer's peak times. "We still have a problem when Oak Bluffs closes up from wind. If Oak Bluffs has the extra police and we have the boats, then maybe we could have them come over to direct traffic. That might be a possibility," Mr. Pachico said.
He said he made a case to the SSA for keeping the 7:30 pm boat in Vineyard Haven, because he and other single parents often use it in taking their children to the mainland for weekend "kid swaps" with their former spouses.
Speaking for The Tisbury Business Association, Steve Perlman, president and owner of a local inn, said, "Marginal dollars can make a difference in a business being successful or closing up."
Chiming in on the press criticism, Mr. Perlman said he was asked by a reporter from a newspaper that he did not identify to comment on the working relationship between Mr. Hanover and town officials.
He told the selectmen that that he did not feel it was appropriate for him to comment on that relationship and that he resented being asked to do so.
In fact, Mr. Perlman was called by The Times for comment in his role as president of a business association following much criticism directed at the SSA. Mr. Perlman said that Mr. Hanover had agreed to meet with the TBA Tuesday.