ATHOL Soon after a controversial decision was reached by the municipal leaders, an armed sheriff’s deputy escorted several thurman Town Board members from the town hall to their vehicles. The exit into the darkness followed several local residents jeering and muttering threats after a long-awaited vote was cast.
Minutes earlier on Monday April 8, the Thurman Town Board approved a two year, $80,000 emergency services contract with the Warrensburg ambulance corps, rather than the local squad.
Although all but a few members of the crowd expressed opposition to the pending contract, the board voted 3-2 to approve it, with several board members citing the ability of Warrensburg Emergency Medical Services to provide Advanced Life Support at a cost to taxpayers less than the local independent squad which offers only Basic Life Support.
The public hearing, two-and-a-half hours long, included residents shouting out accusations and pleas, with board members defending their pending decision.
Town Supervisor Evelyn Wood cited how the Thurman squad’s lack of consistent response, and recent shutdowns and reopenings had put their certification in jeopardy.
She displayed emails in which Dr. Douglas Girling, medical director for all EMS squads in Warren County, raised questions about his further official endorsement of the Thurman squad, which is necessary for them to respond to calls.
However, people in the audience described how over many years, Thurman residents had worked to form their squad, constructed their headquarters themselves, and responded to calls on a timely basis.
Board members said they recognized the local volunteers’ past work, but cited the ever-increasing standards for emergency care, and how Warrensburg could fulfill those needs at a lower cost than Thurman Emergency Medical Services. They also noted that regional and state emergency medical officials have said a squad needs to service 600 or more calls per year to be a viable agency, but Thurman had only 89 in 2012.