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Lanesborough Approves Plan to Hire EMTs in Highway Department
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
02:30AM / Tuesday, January 23, 2018
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen have given the OK for the town manager to hire two emergency medical technicians to work in the Highway Department.
 
Town Manager Paul Sieloff put forth a proposal to bring on two additional workers who will also be responsible for running the ambulance during the day. The proposal is a creative way to address a shortage of volunteers, that have led the volunteer ambulance service to miss out on calls. 
 
"What it would essentially do would give us coverage during the busiest time for the ambulance," Sieloff said.
 
He put forth the idea two weeks ago and, on Monday, the Board of Selectmen authorized him to advertise the positions and possibly bring on the workers this fiscal year. In the future, the additional positions will be part of the town's budget and Sieloff estimates that the two additional employees will cost about $70,000.
 
Ideally, the candidates would not only be a certified emergency medical technician but also have a commercial driver's license, which is a typical requirement for those who work in the department. But, Sieloff said candidates without the commercial license will still be considered. He may even look into purchasing a new pickup truck for those workers who do not have a CDL. The town currently has six commercial vehicles and one non-commercial vehicle.
 
"We still would hire somebody who can do labor type work," Sieloff said.
 
He added that with the union contract, the wages will likely be more than other commercial ambulance services are offering for EMTs.
 
The employees would do work with the Highway Department but if there is a call, the worker would leave the job and handle the call as an EMT. Sieloff said the Fire Department only asked that the new employees go through an orientation at the station in how the town's ambulance service operates and manages paperwork.
 
Selectman Robert Ericson had some questions about insurance, the ramifications on union contracts, and the availability of the ambulance. 
 
Sieloff said the town's insurance will cover the workers, and the availability of the ambulance will be the same as it currently is for the volunteers -- with one ambulance and mutual aid agreements in place. 
 
"Generally they can turnaround an ambulance is less than an hour," he said.
 
Selectman Henry "Hank" Sayers said the town currently has two employees who are also volunteer firefighters and that the town allows them to handle fire calls so any conflicts with the union have already been resolved. Sayers did, however, caution Sieloff to make sure a process is in place so the workers aren't essentially getting double pay for handling an ambulance call.
 
The ambulance service hasn't been able to save funds to replace its ambulance. The town had previously proposed eliminating the service altogether and contracting with a private entity to avoid that inevitable capital purchase. The volunteers, however, put up a fight and began to increase its response rate.
 
But still, there are only a few active volunteers and they tend to work during the day and can't answer calls.
 
Sieloff said these new workers will be able to handle the daytime calls and he hopes the Fire Department can schedule the volunteers on call for nights and weekends -- thus ensuring coverage around the clock. The more calls the ambulance service can take, the more revenue it will get through billing and insurance payments. Additionally, the town may be able to reduce its summer help as well.
 
In other business, the town extended its agreement with Williamstown to share a town planner. Last year, the two towns agreed to share Town Planner Andrew Groff, with Lanesborough getting 10 hours per month to focus on Lanesborough issues.
 
"I think it has been unbelievably successful," Sieloff said.
 
Groff has helped the town's Planning Board immensely over the last year, said Planning Board member Ronald Tinkham. The Planning Board had recently passed solar bylaws and has now crafted bylaws for the marijuana industry.
 
"The marijuana bylaw was prepared by him and we got a lot of support from him in preparing the warrant for the town meeting," Tinkham said.
 
That marijuana bylaw essentially keeps a commercial establishment out of opening in residential areas. That, along with $70,000 to purchase a new tractor, will go to voters during a special town meeting next month. That meeting will only have those two items and Sieloff expects it to last less than an hour.
 
"The attorney signed off on it, the Planning Board did, and the Planning Board put a lot of work into it," Sieloff said.
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