Recommendations for Ludlow Ambulance Service at Selectboard meeting

Ludlow Ambulance
Ludlow Selectboard meeting, Dec. 2, 2019. Photo by Sharon Huntley

LUDLOW, Vt. – Ludlow Selectboard meeting Monday, Dec. 2 featured praise and assessment recommendations for Ludlow Ambulance Service. The meeting also dealt with Vail Bridge repairs and what to do with the town’s four municipal buses.

The town of Ludlow, along with Ludlow Ambulance Service, has been awarded the “HEARTSafe Community Designation” from the Vermont Department of Health EMS Division for meeting the necessary criteria that demonstrates their readiness to potentially save victims of cardiac arrest through use of CPR and increased access to defibrillation. EMS Chief Daniel Batsie was expected to present the designation in person but cancelled due to weather. Instead, he sent a letter, which was read aloud by LAS Deputy Chief Stephanie Grover, commending the town and Ludlow Ambulance for their efforts in preparedness to effectively treat victims of cardiac arrest. Ludlow is one of only a handful of towns that has received this award.

VTrans gave a presentation to the Selectboard on their recommendation for repairing Vail Bridge, which sits near the intersection of Andover Street and Main Street in Ludlow. After inspection, their recommendation is to rehabilitate the bridge versus complete replacement. Keeping the abutments that support the bridge, they recommend replacing the superstructure beams and the deck. Total estimated cost of the project is $1,850,000, with the town being responsible for 5% of the cost, which comes to $92,500. VTrans said that their estimate was “fat” at this phase and as the design is finalized it would likely pare back.

VTrans recommends building one lane at a time so traffic can continue to flow on the road during construction. The project is slated for 2022 and would span from May 1 to the end of October. If traffic were rerouted completely off the bridge, the project could be done in half that time. Pedestrians would need to use a pedestrian bridge versus walking across during construction. Bicycles would be able to use bridge along with car and truck traffic.

VTrans will submit a summary of their proposal along with a few questions to the town and will expect the town to confirm the scope of the project within the next few weeks. The Selectboard agreed to put the project on the January agenda for approval.

Shawn Murray of Municipal Resources Inc., who had been hired by the town of Ludlow to perform an assessment of Ludlow Emergency Services, presented his report, which included over 30 specific recommendations.

Some of the report’s key findings recommend that Ludlow Ambulance Service continue to provide the current paramedic level of EMS service delivery, which is an advanced life support type of service with EMTs and paramedics. It also recommends a transition from a volunteer on-call service to one with full-time, career staffers – enough to have two personnel staffing one primary ambulance 24/7, augmenting with part-time and on-call personnel to supplement shift openings and staff a second ambulance as needed.

Grover said that they had already made the transition to full- and part-time paid personnel and were no longer using volunteers. They currently have three permanent full-time employees, one temporary full-time employee, and approximately 10 to 12 part-time employees.

MRI recommended that the current management structure for Ludlow Ambulance continue for two years with Police Chief Jeff Billings continuing as Ludlow’s emergency director and Stephanie Grover as deputy chief of Ludlow Ambulance Service. Town Manager Scott Murphy said that the ambulance and emergency services and morale has improved with Billings and Grover in place. Murray agreed saying, “You definitely have a great service.”

MRI suggested the town negotiate a long-term contract with Okemo for Ambulance services. Scott Murphy said that they were currently in negotiations with Okemo now.

Ludlow Ambulance guidelines they operate under are appropriate. According to MRI, they are in good shape and should just review every couple of years.

Financially, the ambulance service is sustaining itself only to a certain level but recently increased ambulance rates should provide better revenue. They also recommended that ambulance service billing be done through a third party. After this presentation, the Selectboard approved hiring Comstar to take over the Ludlow Ambulance Service billing. Comstar will be paid 4.5% of net funds collected.

They reviewed the Ludlow Ambulance Service Membership Program and thought it was a good program to continue to offer to local residents. They also suggested that Ludlow continue to explore any regionalization opportunities they may have. In addition, the decision what to charge for service to surrounding towns will be left to them to figure out what’s fair and equitable.

MRI suggested LAS put together an equipment replacement plan for cardiac monitors, defibrillators, and IV pump equipment. They also suggest establishing a formal emergency capital replacement plan for the two ambulances.

The Selectboard next moved on to a discussion about the sale of their four municipal transit buses. Ludlow will no longer be running the bus service after June of 2020. The Two Rivers Supervisory Union will take over transportation for elementary students.

The Selectboard has the option of selling the busses to the TRSU or to an independent bus vendor. The assessed value for all four buses is $103,000.

Justin Hyjek said, “As an individual board member, I want them [the school district] to have these buses.”

After discussion, the Selectboard agreed to offer TRSU the buses for 50% of their approximate value, which would equal $51,500 or for a flat $50,000 if they agreed to take all four buses.

On Dec. 10, Murphy will be at the Vermont Supreme Court with town attorney to appeal Jackson house quarter shares valuation, which impacts taxes collected by the town for those properties.

Murphy updated the Selectboard on the status of the rubble on the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Main Street from the property demolition done earlier in the year. The Village Trustees are pursuing legal action. They are trying to get permission to go on and remove the rubble and then place a lien on the property to recoup the cost. Long term, they are looking to amend the town ordinance so that in future any demolition will allow for immediate rubble removal.

The January Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Jan. 6 at 7 p.m.

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