Ambulance Service Draws Attention in Tunbridge
Tunbridge — At this year’s Town Meeting, divisions still lingered from last year’s controversy over the performance and responsibility of First Branch Ambulance in providing emergency services in town. By a vote of 108-61, residents defeated an amendment put forth by Deb Mullen of First Branch Ambulance to appropriate $45,000 to cover the entire town, rather than only North Tunbridge.
Instead, voters approved the Selectboard’s proposed short-term solution to the problem of response time to medical emergencies by splitting the town into two regions: North and South Tunbridge. Under the Selectboard proposal, South Royalton Ambulance will cover residents south of Potash Road to the South Royalton line at a cost of $47.76 per person, or $26,984 total. First Branch Ambulance will cover residents north of Potash Road to the Chelsea line at a cost of $24 per person, or an estimated $17,640. The total cost to the town is an estimated $44,624.
The Selectboard had received a complaint, Dunkle said, about First Branch’s response time to an emergency in South Tunbridge, estimating that it took more than 40 minutes. Deb Mullen countered that the response time was less than 30 minutes.
“How do we get the response time to the south end of town down?” said Selectman Bob Dunkle. “It’s geography, just geography.”
Selectwoman Ingrid Van Steamburg reiterated that anyone in town is invited to apply for an open seat on the Emergency Services Committee, which will study how best to provide rescue and fire service to different parts of town.
Voters approved the proposed 2013-2014 town budget of $191,601 but amended it by $38,538. The increase is divided as follows: $26,984 which will be paid to South Royalton Ambulance; $3,000 for a professional audit of the town books; $3,000 for office computer supplies; and $553 for the Orange County tax.
In addition, voters approved an increase in the Cemetery Commission budget from $5,000 to $7,000 after Commissioner Erin Gooch asked for an additional $2,000 because the commission has heard “a lot of unhappiness about the maintenance of the cemeteries.”
Voters also gave the go-ahead to a request by the Recreation Committee to increase its budget from $6,000 to $9,000. And they approved a petition by Stagecoach Transit, which provides services to the infirm and elderly, to increase their budget from the $990 listed in the warning to $1,100.
The proposed highway budget of $698,050 passed without debate, bringing the total town budget to $928,189. There was no discussion on what the property tax valuation would be after the addition of $38,000 to the budget.
Gary Mullen was nominated and elected to fill the opening on the Selectboard left by Tom Mullen, who stepped down at the end of a three-year term. Treasurer Ann Fragnella, who was appointed in January to fill the vacancy left by the previous treasurer, was elected to a three-year term.
Ben Wolfe resigned his position as a lister; no candidates announced themselves from the floor, so the Selectboard will have to appoint one. Lister Helen O’Donnell thanked him for his service and later, after the town budgets had passed, estimated that 20 cents had been added to people’s tax bills as a result of the $38,000 amendment to the town budget.