, Newburyport, MA

September 19, 2013

Pursue city-owned EMS in Port

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Councilor James Shanley said in October 2009, “The three challenges facing Newburyport are funding, funding, funding.” In 2007, he appointed Chairwoman Brenda Reffett to the Revenue Task Force to explore the benefits of providing a city-operated ambulance service. The results encouraged the city to investigate the possible benefits more carefully, including a recommendation for a formal study. But oddly, no further action was taken as a result of this report.

Councilor Hutcheson said in February 2008, “The Fire Department was forced to borrow a pumper/tanker truck from Salisbury.” In May 2011, the Fire Department said: “If a fire breaks out today, the department would have to leave the station without its own ladder truck on its emergency run.” The Newburyport 2012 Annual Report stresses the lack of goals accomplished due to money constraints. The Newburyport 2013 Annual Report stated the impact in services due to the recession and decreases in funding. A lack of funding for the city retirement pension system has existed for many years with no solution in sight. Clearly Councilor Shanley was on to something.

Over the past seven years, information collected directly from 32 fire chiefs in Massachusetts, including Amesbury, has confirmed that these experienced professionals are satisfied with fire-based Emergency Medical Services (EMS); but more than that, enthusiastically endorsed a municipally operated EMS as a means to provide significant gain in city revenue.

Opponents say the initial start-up costs are too high. This is more scare tactic than truth. The return-on-investment has proven to more than outweigh the costs with the first profits, on average, being realized within two years and profits of approximately $700,000 per year thereafter.

Then City councilor Holaday stated in 2007, “We need new incentives for Newburyport to raise revenue,” but in October 2012, Mayor Holaday stated, “What makes less sense for the city is to emulate Amesbury by providing its own ambulance service.”

The Amesbury city financial officer revealed that revenue generated for their city-operated EMS amounted to $5,301,024 over the last nine years. Since inadequate revenue is clearly a historically ongoing and increasing problem, why is our city opposed to considering a proven source for generating such high returns in revenue? Several city councilors also stated they were in favor of a municipal ambulance service, but curiously the initiative is not a priority for Mayor Holaday or former fire Chief Cutter, who has stated that he was not interested in taking on the additional responsibility.

A city-operated ambulance service, having already been tested and proven in 247 towns across Massachusetts, is both a cost-effective and lucrative alternative to our current private contractor system. With the arrival of a new fire chief and the projected number of firefighters retiring in the next two years, now is the best time to make the change.

George Roaf