Ledyard to replace volunteer squad with American Ambulance

Ledyard -- The town has most likely found its new ambulance service company. 

On Monday, the three town officials tasked with vetting the bids of ambulance companies agreed to recommend that the Town Council authorize the mayor to begin negotiations with American Ambulance to become the town’s new ambulance service provider. 

The town had received three bids for the service but town officials quickly narrowed down the options to American Ambulance and the Ledyard Volunteer Emergency Squad or LVES, the volunteer organization that has suppled ambulance services here since 1972. Emergency Management Director Russ Shaw, Finance Director Marcia Hancock and Town Council Chairwoman Linda Davis were the committee members responsible for examining the ambulance proposals. 

American Ambulance proposed a guaranteed maximum price of $75,000 that would seemingly stay constant over the next 15 years of the contract, while LVES proposed a guaranteed maximum price of $50,000. That would grow by slighly more than $1,200 in each of the following years through the fifth year of the contract. 

LVES did not offer a price for any year after year five and also suggested that it receive ownership of the town's two ambulances at a cost of $1 each, as well as a significant amount of money from the EMS Capital Fund account, which the town owns and LVES has contributed to.

"There's a group of very dedicated people and there is no doubt that some people are getting hurt by this, but the unfortunate reality is we have to provide today’s coverage to today’s people,” said Shaw.

"Our call volume has greatly increased, and the number of volunteers we have to handle that increased call volume has been diminishing over the years,” he added. “We’re in a situation where we have to come up with the best business plan to protect 15,000 people in town.”

Officials have indicated the best way to do that is to provide an in-town paid ambulance crew stationed in the emergency services building around the clock, something that is a departure from the current system where LVES provides the service through a mixture of volunteers and minimal paid staff.

In March, town officials began to express concerns about the unincorporated status  of LVES and its recent struggles responding to calls.

Town councilors then decided to explore other options, with Mayor Fred Allyn III saying the intention was to shift to being able to provide fully-staffed ambulance service all hours of the day, 365 days a year.

Now that the town seems to have found its new provider, there are still issues that remain.

For one, the final terms of the contract with American Ambulance still need to be negotiated, and town officials do have some concerns about certain aspects of American's proposal including the organization's suggestion for providing standby service and desire to possess full choice over the mutual aid ambulances that would be dispatched in the event the American Ambulance stationed in Ledyard is unable to respond.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is tied to the timeline for getting a deal done and transitioning to a new ambulance company.

LVES Director Rick Mumenthaler said Monday the organization still plans to voluntarily relinquish its exclusive coverage rights to Ledyard. That will help the town avoid a drawn-out dispute over the matter. 

However, the LVES contract with the town expires June 30. If the town doesn't have its new ambulance service in place by then, town officials need to work out a way to avoid a gap in coverage.

At the meeting Monday, officials stressed that there will need to be a contingency plan in place, in the event American Ambulance is not ready to take over by June 30. One option could be to try and temporarily extend the LVES service.

Mumenthaler said that if town officials want LVES to continue past June 30 they will need to come to a meeting in the first week of June to discuss the matter.

Alternatively the town could try to provide the service by turning to a system where they rely on adding per-diem staff, while still continuing to pay the current paid-staff at LVES, who are technically town employees. Another option may be to try and work out some structure with mutual aid ambulances.

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