Thursday’s delayed Brattleboro Selectboard meeting almost seemed like a last-minute confessional. In the movie version it would have gone like this:
Board: “Forgive us, voting public, for we have committed the sin of omission. When we said it was about the one letter from Rescue, it wasn’t the full story…” (Cue ominous music)
I’m not sure if it was the late hour, or a lack of air conditioning on a hot evening, or an impending sense of guilt, but moments before the the meeting was to wrap up, (with the next steps being a public information session then a board vote on EMS services,) board members revealed that they had other, important information that they have been keeping from the public.
Well, well, well. The Brattleboro Selectboard has decided at the last moment that it would be good for them to explain to the public all the secret EMS BFD Rescue relationship information they have known about, information the public has asked them about for over a year and half and the board has remained steadily tight-lipped about. Until now.
Former Chair Liz McLoughlin cracked and said she wouldn’t let Rescue, Inc. control the narrative anymore, and that she wanted a meeting to reveal everything the board knows that the public has been kept in the dark about by her and her fellow board members. Chair Ian Goodnow warned the board that the town attorney told them they should not discuss these secrets with the public, but they voted to hold a special meeting anyway. The plan is to let the public know all the reasons that Rescue and BFD don’t get along.
This throws the public forum and decision-making meeting dates into question.
Brattleboro – Rescue Inc. is proud to announce the opening of VEMSA, Vermont EMS Academy, to bring state-of-the-art emergency medical training to Southern Vermont and the surrounding region. The facility is on Route 30 in Newfane, Vermont, just minutes off I-91. VEMSA will be opening this fall with an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and AHA (American Heart Association) classes and many other courses soon to follow.
“It’s both a natural progression and a dream realized for Rescue Inc,” said Drew Hazelton, Rescue Inc’s chief of operations, “We’ve always wanted to create a place where doctors, nurses, teachers, and first responders can hone and broaden their skills.” VEMSA will focus on the latest in emergency medical techniques for all skill levels. “We will offer CPR courses, for instance, to high school students and teachers while also providing instruction to practicing medical professionals,” said Hazelton.
Chief Hazelton & Members of the Rescue Inc. Board,
On behalf of the Town of Brattleboro, I am writing to follow up from the meeting on June 6, 2022, regarding EMS Mutual Aid. The Town appreciates the many years of excellent service Rescue Inc. has provided to Brattleboro and wishes continued award-winning success for Rescue Inc.’s service to other communities in our region. We look forward to rebuilding a healthy working relationship between the two entities towards our shared goal of maintaining the health and safety of the people we serve.
Below our FY23 service plan is outlined, in hopes that this information will clarify the capacity at which we are asking Rescue Inc. to engage in Mutual Aid.
Tuesday’s Select Board meeting and an article in today’s Brattleboro Reformer brought to the surface a major issue with crime, especially in the downtown area. Various Select Board members chimed in both in the meeting and in the press. It rather hurt to see a friend of mine with his picture on the front page this morning given the circumstances.
Tim Wessel is quoted in the Reformer as saying:
“I live downtown and I have to say there’s an increase in the feeling of lawlessness occurring,” he said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “Whether it’s flower pots being overturned, business windows being smashed, unlocked cars being rifled through, or loud cars speeding recklessly through family neighborhoods, a lot of folks have been reaching out to me to say that it feels a little more like the Wild West in Brattleboro, and I agree.”
But, little known to many, actually including some Select Board members, Chief Hardy was a victim of the rapid shift away from Rescue Inc as well and she had no part in that decision that I am aware of.
Rescue Inc Press Release: “Brattleboro – The Brattleboro selectboard sent a request to the Rescue Inc trustees asking for a meeting to discuss mutual aid on May 19th. This was the first communication between the Town and Rescue Inc. since the September 2021 consortium meeting which was attended by then Town Manager Peter Elwell and the Selectboard Chair Elizabeth McLoughlin. The Rescue corporate officers agreed to an early June meeting and replied to the request on May 20th. A June 6th meeting date was confirmed.
Brattleboro’s request for help covering ambulance calls comes after the selectboard unilaterally chose to terminate a 56-year relationship with our nonprofit, community-based organization. This decision was made without any discussions about, or actual consideration of, the impact on the surrounding communities. The Town presented its position during a February 9th meeting when Rescue was told the Town would not pay an assessment fee and that Rescue should provide service for free. The response from Rescue Chief Drew Hazelton rejecting those terms in March has been cited as the reason for the sudden closed door meeting that led to the change in EMS providers.
Robert Oeser sent a notice to the Town of Brattleboro on Friday. The Town has 10 calendar days to respond publicly..
“To: The Brattleboro Selectboard
Ian Goodnow, Chair
Daniel Quipp, Vice-Chair
Jessica Gelter, Clerk
When I asked him about his goals back on Jan 20, Town Manager Yoshi Manale spoke of creating more open spaces downtown, being open and transparent, and being flexible while solving problems. No mention of wanting to alter EMS services. Yet the impression one might get from official communications is that a new town manager came to town, took aim at EMS, and is walking away.
But that’s not the full story. First off, the Brattleboro Selectboard told him to take on Rescue.
Both the current and former Chair of the Brattleboro Selectboard have confirmed that Town Manager Manale was not acting solo when it came to Rescue Inc actions and decisions.
It is sometimes helpful to look at information in a timeline format. Thanks to everyone who assisted in piecing this together this list of Brattleboro Fire, Rescue, and EMS items from the past year or so.**
Please note any additions or corrections you feel would clarify in the comments if you’d like. This is an in-progress project and will likely be updated. I’ll note any edits to the main timeline list in the comments.
March 22 – Elizabeth McLoughlin becomes Chair of the Selectboard.
Dear Ms. Hege,
After some initial staff level discussion on the issue of mutual aid between the Town of Brattleboro and Rescue Inc., Chief Hazelton made clear his preference for direct Board to Board communication. We are happy to honor his request. It is our view that a mutual aid agreement between our two organizations is in our shared best interest. I hope that you agree.
The Brattleboro Selectboard voted to enter into a one year contract with Golden Cross Ambulance, effectively ending five decades of Rescue, Inc. collaboration with the town. There was much public discussion, mostly against the way this was handled, but it was approved 5-0.
The board also went back on their previous decision about the ski jump sculpture, now allowing it to be downtown year round but unlit most of the year, sort of like the Valentines hearts that hang year round downtown.
A few items have come our way that indicate some pushback on the recent Town decisions regarding Rescue, Inc.
Anne Latchis has sent this out:
I’m writing to ask you to please write or call our town select-board members to ask them bring the ‘Town Manager’s decision to no longer contract with Rescue, Inc.’ to a TOWN VOTE . Contact info is listed below.
When you think of the River Garden, you probably think “there’s not enough liquor there.” Well, the Brattleboro Selectboard will take care of that at their next regular meeting.
A new ambulance contract will be signed to officially end the Rescue, Inc. era. The board will also reconsider their decision from their last meeting about whether the downtown metal ski jump sculpture should stay or go in off seasons. And they’ll handle a few financial and administrative matters.
You can bring up other items not on the agenda during public participation.
On March 25th, 2022, Chief Drew Hazelton of Rescue Inc. informed the Selectboard and Town Manager that Rescue Inc. would no longer be providing emergency medical services (EMS) for the Town of Brattleboro as of July 1st, 2022. The Town thanks the dedicated members of Rescue Inc. for their many years of service in our town. Their excellent help and dedication to the community have been appreciated. We know that they will continue to provide that high level of service to their remaining customers in our surrounding municipalities.
After careful consideration of various options, The Town will be shifting from a private provider to a joint Fire/EMS service, offering patient care from the scene to the hospital with transport service. This Municipal Fire/EMS model is the most efficient and effective standard practice for the rapid delivery of medical care. It is currently being utilized in a highly successful manner by 5 of the 6 Vermont municipalities larger than Brattleboro and our neighbor in Keene, NH.
At 12 midnight Engine 2 and Utility 8 responded to 11 Pleasant Street for a Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm activation.
Upon arrival firefighters were met outside by a tenant who reported the carbon monoxide detector in the basement was going off. Firefighters entered the basement to find the CO detector was sounding, and the gas meter firefighters were carrying with them registered elevated levels of CO. There was also a light haze in the basement, this being caused by a malfunctioning boiler.
The biggest news of the Tuesday meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard came not from the agenda but introductory remarks. The Town manager announced that Planning Services Director Rod Francis was leaving Brattleboro in the next couple of weeks.
This was followed by an unscheduled but surprisingly active discussion of aggressive panhandling in the downtown area.
Beyond those matters, the skatepark hired a design firm and got some extra cash, contracts and grants were approved, the utility budget passed, a long resolution was adopted, and more.
It’s happening. At their next regular meeting, the Brattleboro Selectboard will hire a company to do the designs for the skatepark at Living Memorial Park.
The board will discuss repairs at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, discuss parking, talk about loans and grants, approve an annual contract with Rescue, Inc., and proceed with the loan for the new fire truck. You can bring up other items not on the agenda during public participation.