By Jacob McCarthy
Fair Haven residents voted last Tuesday to increase funding for the Fair Haven rescue squad that has had issues with money the past couple years.
“It’s an amazing thing. There’s still a lot of work to do, we have some things to do to make things more solid,” EMS chief Sean Galvin said regarding the budget issue.
Galvin took over his position last March when the budget and the money reserve were not in a good place.
“By the time I took over, it was close, there was not much money at all (in the reserve) and the per capita rate was not covering the bills,” Galvin said.
With this vote passing, the per capita rate will be raised to the $48 that is needed for the department to operate one ambulance.
The per capita rate covers the difference between the total cost to operate the department and the income that comes from calls and donations, which has been $20 and did not cover that cost to operate.
The rate should have been raised in previous years but was not, which caused the money reserve to be depleted to cover the cost of operating the rescue squad.
When this issue was brought before the select board back in October, the board was skeptical of the money increase and whether the voters would pass it.
“It was a significant increase from the year before, that’s where the shock came from,” town manager Joe Gunter said.
Even with the budget increase, Gunter acknowledged how important EMS service is to the community.
“It’s important to have this kind of service in town, minutes count in these medical emergency situations and having an ambulance service in town saves lives, Gunter said.
Fair Haven police chief Bill Humphries also thinks that having the rescue squad will keep the Fair Haven community safe.
“As far as a law enforcement standpoint when we respond to assist the rescue squad sometimes we do get there first, it’s definitely reassuring to know they are only coming from a couple minutes down the street,” Humphries said.
Galvin reiterated that the funding increase covers the cost to operate and staff one ambulance 24/7 which does not mean when you dial 911, the ambulance is going to be available.
“It’s only one crew and they can only be in one place at a time. But it does increase the chances, two calls don’t come in at the same time every day,” Galvin said.
Non-emergent transfers are still a priority for the rescue squad, as the per capita rate, call income and donations will not cover the total operating cost of the department.
In the future, Galvin would like to see an ambulance available 24/7 along with another ambulance staffed for a normal 40-hour work week that would focus on those transfers.
“That’s ideally what I’d like to see down the road. If we can build more relationships with nursing homes and hospital care facilities (that will help) draw income in,” Galvin said.
Galvin appreciates the voters of Fair Haven for supporting the rescue squad so they can continue to save lives.
“I don’t think people really realize them voting to support the ambulance, the voters themselves are literally helping save a life,” Galvin said.
Jacob McCarthy is a journalism student at Castleton University.