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County Ambulance to Become Lanesborough's Primary EMS
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
03:59AM / Tuesday, December 18, 2018
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LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — County Ambulance will now serve as the town's primary emergency medical service provider.
 
The Board of Selectmen last week signed an agreement with the Pittsfield-based ambulance service to handle calls in town. Town Manager Kelli Robbins said the three-year agreement comes with no cost to the town.
 
"I would like to see this done as a trial," Robbins said.
 
Robbins wants to keep the town's ambulance service in operation but serving in mainly a backup role. She doesn't want to lose the license to operate an ambulance service should the agreement not work out or becomes a paid service in the future. 
 
Fire Chief Charlie Durfee said essentially the roles of the services will be reversed. The town's volunteer service was primary but if there were no volunteers available, County would be called to fill in. The hope is that the agreement will allow for a faster response time.
 
"We'll keep our ambulance, keep it going, but reverse roles," Durfee said.
 
Lanesborough's service has been struggling financially in recent years. There has been a lack of volunteer emergency medical technicians available to answer calls and missing chances at revenue, costs have continued to rise, and unpaid bills from those being transported were piling up. In the last few years, the service has not been able to save up for a new ambulance.
 
Early last year, County had offered to take over as the primary but the members of the local service fought the agreement for fear that it would mean the end of it altogether. The volunteers put together a plan to turn the numbers around and the Selectmen have been monitoring it since then.
 
The town had even agreed to add staff members to the Highway Department who were certified emergency medical technicians and could handle calls during the day. But an ambulance requires two people to operate and one of those hired on the Highway Department left to take a job with the Pittsfield Fire Department.
 
The Board of Selectmen again brought up the concept of going with the private service and an agreement was reached.
 
Durfee said keeping the volunteer service operating during the next three years is a "win for everybody" and the question about purchasing a new ambulance can be addressed in three years with consideration of how this agreement works out.
 
In other business, the water line expansion project for Berkshire Village received a "devastating" blow. A little more than 30 residents in the area form a cooperative that was looking to upgrade the aging water infrastructure and hoped to receive a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
 
Robbins, however, said USDA has informed her that the town legally cannot receive the loan on behalf of the cooperative.
 
"As it stands we do not have the legal capacity to apply for this loan," she said.
 
The town now has to withdraw its application and consider a different way to fund the $1.8 million project. The biggest issue with the USDA is that the town does not have ownership of the water system there and to apply for the loan, the town would have to own, operate, and maintain the system.
 
Cooperative officials said it does not have the equity to apply for the loan on its own and now the group doesn't know what to do. On top of that, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has been giving the cooperative leeway on a timeline to improve the system in anticipation of the water line project. Cooperative officials also said a number of the residents there do not have the ability to put in wells.
 
The Board of Selectmen is now looking to get together with the Water District and the cooperative to find a solution.
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