Thurman officials snub their own ambulance squad

THURMAN - The town government has decided to drop its traditional contract with the local emergency squad and sign a deal with an agency located out of town.

Emerging from behind closed doors at a special meeting Dec. 8, the Thurman Town Board announced that they'd decided to enter into a contract with the Warrensburg Emergency Medical Services for 2011 rather than the local agency.

The decision concludes a year of controversy for the Thurman Emergency Medical Services, which had been holding onto surplus funds, yet submitting hiked budget requests to the town - meanwhile losing their Advanced Life Support certification. The group was seeking reinstatement of ALS capability in the last several months by proposing to boost its depleted personnel roster with paid staffing - an idea unpopular with town residents.

Townspeople and the board had balked at the resulting proposed contract price increases, and were concerned about the uncertainty of whether ALS would be available, Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood said after the meeting.

"Our board had asked our local EMS to provide ALS service as it had in the past, and the EMS officials said they didn't feel they could guarantee this," she said. "It's the feeling of the town board that we have to safeguard the interests of our citizens and look out for their safety."

She said the board had budgeted $50,000 for EMS services for 2011, and would have contracted with the local squad if they had guaranteed ALS at that price.

"There were way too many uncertainties, if's and maybe's," she said.

Representatives of the Thurman agency said this week the future of their squad, its headquarters on High St., and its vehicles and equipment is now uncertain.

After the announcement of the change in agencies was announced at the meeting Dec. 8, no one from the public spoke, which surprised many because the issue of the contract with the squad had in the past prompted plenty of controversy.

The squad has been under a cloud of controversy for about a year - including the revelation that the agency had a surplus of $46,000 but was seeking a hike in annual payments from the town, although the group responded to less than 15 percent of its calls during the first three months of 2010.

(Correspondent Peter LaGrasse contributed to this report.)

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