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Joyce Endee

City Council discusses EMS, Fire Department

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
July 29, 2021
BERLIN — The Berlin City Council held their work session last week and kicked things off discussing a request from Monique Lavertu who wishes to use the pedestrian bridge on Bridge Street to host the 'Dinner on the Bridge' fundraising event on Sept. 12. The Council approved the request via majority.

The conversation then moved to discuss a request to fill the position of Recreation Director, as current Director Terry Letarte will be retiring in October.

Fire Chief James Watkins also relayed that he will have a full time position available and requested permission to fill said position. Both requests were approved.

Mayor Paul Grenier then moved on to discuss municipal staff answering ambulance calls from a private contractor.

Watkins said, "Shortly after Butler took over Berlin EMS, myself and the Assistant Fire Chief Peter Donovan met with Butler's management team and discussed how to bridge the working relationship between Fire and EMS. Scott from Butler had asked why the Fire Department didn't go on medical calls with EMS."

Watkins stated that at the time, the fire department would go on calls when requested.

"Most municipal Fire Departments that work with a private EMS agency will do what is called first response which means they will respond with the private ambulance to provide manpower, backup, a driver or whatever they need. Scott from Butler comes from the Conway area and the Fire Department goes on every medical call with the private ambulance," he added.

Watkins relayed that he doesn't feel that the Fire Department should go on every call with EMS.

Councilor Lucille Remilard asked the Fire Chief if two trucks go on each call, to which Watkins replied in the affirmative but stated that could be changed.

"I'm working on standardizing the equipment so all vehicles would have the same equipment on it," said Watkins.

Councilor Diana Berthiaume stated that she had budgetary concerns.

"We have a for profit company (Butler) getting a subsidy from the city, but we also show an 80 percent increase in Police Department calls assisting EMS. My concern is that we are paying subsidy but are also subsidizing a private company with City staff from two different departments. The Fire Department is given a budget to work with every year and the City is also giving EMS a subsidy which I feel they should be able to work with," Berthiaume said.

Berthiaume agrees that the Fire Department should not have to go on every EMS call, as tax payers are paying twice. Watkins did say that in 2021 EMS calls have gone up, but fire calls have gone down.

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