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Thurman EMS on verge of dissolving

HAPPIER DAYS — At the conclusion of the Thurman Town Board meeting in November, Thurman EMS squad President Jean Coulard (center) and squad captain John O'Neill (right) exchange friendly compliments with Warrensburg EMS Squad Captain Steve Emerson (left). Since then, the Thurman Town Board withdrew its financial support of the Thurman squad, an action which threatened its survival and prompted the agency's decision this week to dissolve. Warrensburg EMS Board of Directors President Robert Farrell said Jan. 29 that his agency's personnel, if available, would now be responding to calls in Thurman, but would need financial support from the town to continue to respond long-term.

HAPPIER DAYS — At the conclusion of the Thurman Town Board meeting in November, Thurman EMS squad President Jean Coulard (center) and squad captain John O'Neill (right) exchange friendly compliments with Warrensburg EMS Squad Captain Steve Emerson (left). Since then, the Thurman Town Board withdrew its financial support of the Thurman squad, an action which threatened its survival and prompted the agency's decision this week to dissolve. Warrensburg EMS Board of Directors President Robert Farrell said Jan. 29 that his agency's personnel, if available, would now be responding to calls in Thurman, but would need financial support from the town to continue to respond long-term. Photo by Thom Randall.

— She said the board’s decision to withdraw support had been a difficult one.

“We wholeheartedly support having EMS services in town — Public safety is of paramount importance, and we have nothing but respect for the squad members — but the financial times are tight. We couldn’t afford what they were asking.”

Thurman EMS officers had recently requested operating subsidy from the town, at various times, representing sums ranging from $30,000 to $115,000 annually.

Wood said the town taxpayers were already burdened with hefty employee retirement increases which pushed the town budget to the maximum under the tax cap — without any subsidy to the squad.

In mid-November, the squad asked for $75,000 from the town, banking on raising $40,000 to $50,00 in donations from the town’s 350 or so households. Wood had said the $75,000 sum would represent a 20 percent tax increase, which taxpayers couldn’t afford.

In 2012, the town allocated $27,315 towards the EMS agency’s operations, and the prior year, the sum was $33,468.

In various town board meetings over the past several years, quite a few citizens have requested passionately for public support for Thurman EMS, citing how its quick response times were vital to public safety. Ambulances from Warrensburg can take 10 to 20 minutes longer to arrive than the local squad. Others, however, have expressed their concern to board members about rising taxes.

Coulard estimated that Thurman EMS’ squad building — appraised several years ago at $300,000, might be worth about $200,000 now. The agency’s ambulance, she added, was just recently paid off. She said it was worth $78,000.

“Our building was built by squad members’ labor about 12 years ago for about $57,000,” she said. Coulard continued that in the squad’s dissolution, its assets would be substantially greater than its liabilities.

Farrell said that the Warrensburg squad has interest in acquiring the building, because it would be key to providing an efficient satellite location for their operations. Warrensburg EMS also could use Thurman’s ambulance, he added, because Warrensburg EMS has an urgent need for another — they now have one ambulance in top shape, one in marginal condition and one unusable.

“If we take on the building, we’d have to have support from the town — but less than would be necessary for a full independent service,” Farrell said. “At the moment, we’re ready to do what we can to protect public safety in Thurman. But we can’t keep doing this for an extended time without financial support.”

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