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Wilton and Temple discuss conflict over ambulance budget

  • The Wilton Selectboard met with representatives from the Temple Selectboard and Budget Advisory Committee about renegotiating the Wilton Ambulance deal. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Lyndeborough Selectman Fred Douglas speaks. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Wilton Selectboard met with representatives from the Temple Selectboard and Budget Advisory Committee about renegotiating the Wilton Ambulance deal. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/12/2020 9:06:03 PM

Representatives from Wilton, Temple and Lyndeborough have scheduled a meeting to renegotiate the payments made by each of the four towns receiving services from Wilton Ambulance after a discussion on Monday night at the Wilton Fire Department.

“We need to get all four towns together and discuss it in a rational manner,” Wilton Selectman Kermit Williams said.

Representatives of Greenfield, the fourth town covered by Wilton Ambulance, were contacted after the meeting.

Monday’s discussion came after Temple budgeted $17,000 less for 2020 ambulance services than the $57,000 they’d been asked to contribute by the town of Wilton, which administers the ambulance service.

The contract that all constituent towns signed at the start of 2019 stipulated that payments would be based on percentages of call volumes once sufficient data had been collected, Temple Selectman Bill Ezell said.

In 2019, in absence of call data, Wilton contributed 51 percent of total ambulance costs, and Greenfield, Lyndeborough and Temple evenly split the 49 percent remainder. Although the Ambulance Advisory Committee requested the same breakdown for 2020, Ezell said, Temple followed the contract’s intent and calculated their rate using the call statistics from 2019, in which Temple comprised 10 percent of total calls.

At this point, Ezell said, Temple residents will have to amend the town’s budget on the floor of Town Meeting in order to stay with Wilton Ambulance services through the year. All four towns agreed to meet on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the Wilton Town Hall courtroom to begin deliberations prior to town meetings.

Representatives from Wilton and Temple shared their perspective on the events that led to the current conflict.

“This is not acceptable,” Wilton Selectman Matthew Fish said. “This Select Board should not be running an ambulance.”

He expressed frustration that the advisory committees didn’t foresee the potential for conflict in the situation “until the eleventh hour.”

Williams agreed with Temple Selectman Bill Ezell that certain budget committees had overstepped their authority and the process for setting payments among constituent towns needs to change, but did not agree that the contract language legally required the towns to switch to a call volume-based payment structure in 2020.

He said while it is the fairest way to charge the town there has not been sufficient data collected to justify changing the payment structure after one year.

“Frankly, these numbers are all over the place,” said Ambulance Advisory Committee Chairman Russell Boland, who justified the committee’s decision to maintain 2019 distributions.

Wilton representatives said they had not previously seen the data that Ezell used to justify Temple’s call volume-based budget calculation.

Lyndeborough Selectman Fred Douglas expressed frustration about what he saw as a recurring inability to obtain call data from a centralized source.

“I could do it in 15 minutes,” he said.

Wilton resident Thomas Schultz asked Ezell whether Temple was pursuing contract changes because they had received a competitive offer for services from Peterborough Ambulance.

“They cold called us,” Ezell said. “Any concept of talking to Peterborough didn’t come up [in discussions about Wilton Ambulance payments] in spite of appearances.”

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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