Edgartown plans to increase EMS staff, reduce overtime

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Edgartown selectman agreed Monday to add a new full-time paramedic to the town’s emergency medical service.

Deputy fire chief and ambulance coordinator Alex Schaefer asked selectmen to consider expanding the staff because a shortage of available medics has forced him to fill shifts with Edgartown medics at overtime rates.

Mr. Schaefer said the town has budgeted $102,000 in overtime.

He proposed reducing the overtime budget next year by $40,000, and appropriating an additional $15,000. That would allow him to hire a medic at the starting salary of $55,000, and have a budget of $62,000 for overtime.

“We already have one ten-hour shift per week we’ve hired out,” Mr. Schaefer said. “The ambulance is always covered, but sometimes we have to call back our own staff at time-and-a-half.” Mr. Schaefer said there are not enough paramedics on the Island to reliably cover all shifts.

Fire chief Peter Shemeth said the extra paramedic will allow Mr. Schaefer to focus on administrative work that gets put off when he is called for an ambulance run.

The change is subject to a town meeting vote in April. If approved, the paramedic could begin work on July 1, 2013.

Also at their Monday meeting, the town assessors told selectmen they anticipate the tax rate will rise from $3.43 to $3.55 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“About one-third of that change is because values in town, on average, have been reduced by about one percent,” assessor Alan Gowell said. “The next two-thirds is because of increased spending at last year’s annual town meeting.”

The assessors recommended, and selectman approved, continuing the current policy of taxing all property, residential, commercial, and open space, at the same rate.