The Town of Derry will continue to provide ambulance service to Auburn and Chester, after a majority of the Town Council voted to approve a new five-year contract with each town.
Councilors Neil Wetherbee, Brad Benson, Phyllis Katsakiores, Tom Cardon and Chairman Michael Fairbanks voted in the affirmative at the July 9 meeting, with Councilors Al Dimmock and Mark Osborne voting in the negative.
Fire Chief George Klauber and EMS (emergency medical services) Director Chuck Hemeon presented the contracts. The base contracts for both towns are the same, Klauber said, beginning at $57,301 from July 2013 to June 2014, and ending at $83,896 in July 2017-June 2018. That is a 9 percent annual increase, compounded to 45 percent over five years, Klauber said.
In addition, residents who use the service are required to reimburse Derry. Gross revenue from Auburn was $104,392, FY 11 and $129,098, FY 2012. Gross revenue from Chester was $110,858, FY 11 and $111,980, FY 12, Klauber wrote in a fact sheet.
Klauber told the Council and television audience that Derry has been providing ambulance services to Chester since the 1970s and Auburn since 1990. The major change in these contracts, he said, is an increase in fees. Klauber noted that a previous Council had directed him to find revenue sources that did not impact the taxpayer.
“Together they bring in more than $200,000 annually,” Klauber said. According to Klauber, the amount of time Derry ambulance personnel spend in the two contracting towns is minimal: 2.6 percent annually in Auburn and 1.9 percent annually in Chester.
Councilors questioned what the Derry ambulance budget would look like if the town dropped the contracted service. Town Administrator John Anderson said, “If we don’t approve this contract, there will be a $114,000 hole in the budget.”
Klauber said Auburn and Chester don’t affect staffing or equipment. He noted that he would still have the same amount of staff if they dropped the two towns, and the same number of ambulances, one at each of Derry’s four stations. But, he said, Auburn and Chester would still be calling Derry for “mutual aid,” and the town would receive no revenue from that.
It is cost-effective for the contracting towns to pay Derry, he said. Klauber said a private ambulance company charges up to $2,200 for a call, compared with the $860 Derry charges.
Cardon observed that there had been criticism over the years that Derry residents were being slighted, and that Auburn and Chester weren’t paying their fair share for what they received.
Hemeon disputed this, saying that when an Auburn or Chester call comes in, “We send one ambulance and two people. If something happens to someone in Derry, they get all our resources.”
“Can you ‘squeeze’ more out of them?” Fairbanks asked.
Klauber said he doubted it, pointing out that the previous contract had 5 percent increments and the current one, 9 percent per year. Osborne checked salaries and reported that the revenues from the first year of an Auburn contract would not cover the cost of the lowest-paid Derry EMT (emergency medical technician). But Klauber reminded him that the transport patients still paid, and that there was $200,000 of revenue.
Chester bought its own ambulance as a back-up but rarely uses it, Klauber said. And when it does, it pays Derry $250 per trip. The vote was 5-2 to approve the contract.