Greenfield updates on ambulance, broadband, and Crotched Mountain

  • The Greenfield Meeting House Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/3/2021 1:04:53 PM

The rising Wilton Ambulance contract, building a relationship with new Crotched Mountain School operators Gersh Autism, and expanding broadband infrastructure are some of the challenges the Town of Greenfield faces in 2021.

Greenfield’s budget hearing, a preliminary step towards addressing those challenges, is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m. in advance of a May 1 Town Meeting, to be held outdoors in Oak Park.

Wilton Ambulance, which began serving Greenfield last year, is billing Greenfield $97,135 in 2021 as compared to $57,800 last year. This is not entirely unexpected, Town Administrator Aaron Patt said. When Greenfield participated in planning the 2020 budget, they pointed out some decisions Wilton Ambulance was making were likely to catch up with them in later years. “That’s happening now,” he said. “If the revenue is weaker than expected, and it was not accounted for when they were making budgets in the previous year, it catches up with you,” he said. The ambulance service had collected about 65 percent of the $325,000 they billed in 2020, according to Select Board meeting minutes from December.

There are fewer ambulance calls in Greenfield than in years past, Patt said. There were 125 calls in 2020 according to Wilton Ambulance, down from about 137 in 2019, and 178 in 2018, numbers which are approximate since Greenfield’s previous provider, Peterborough Ambulance, calculated billing on a different formula, he said. The town’s call volume has declined since the days that Crotched Mountain ran a hospital, according to December meeting minutes. 

New Crotched Mountain School operator Gersh Autism is a for-profit institution, unlike outgoing nonprofit Crotched Mountain Foundation, Patt said, “so that’s a big transition for the town in terms of tax revenue.” In 2019, the Crotched Mountain School’s buildings and grounds were valued at $55.5 million according to assessment records. Crotched Mountain Foundation still owns the campus as of January, and whichever entity owns the institution on April 1 sets the classification of the property for the coming year, Patt said. It is yet to be determined whether Gersh will close on the property before April 1, he said.

Since the Crotched Mountain Foundation announced its intent to depart, Greenfield has installed a gas tank on the DPW property to serve the police and DPW vehicles that previously used the school’s pumps, and the Crotched Mountain Foundation has moved out of a suite they rented in the old town offices. There are no current plans for the space due to COVID-19 constraints, Patt said. Patt has spoken to Gersh Autism CEO Kevin Gersh since the organization took over the day-to-day operations of the school.

Greenfield has contracted consulting organization Mission Broadband to review the technical language of the broadband internet contract the town is negotiating with Consolidated Communications, Patt said. In December, the Select Board agreed to pay them $5,000 to make sure the town doesn’t get stuck with obsolete technology if voters ultimately agree to a 20-year bond that would provide fiber internet options for every residence in town. The town’s legal counsel is still participating, and the Select Board is still responsible for negotiating the contract, Patt said, but they wanted consultants more familiar with the technology and business of internet to weigh in on the contract. The last of three public hearings about the bond were conducted on Wednesday, and more public information sessions are scheduled in advance of Town Meeting for residents to familiarize themselves on the proposal, Patt said.

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