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A new five-year contract with Campion Ambulance that will save the Town of Cheshire more than $250,000 has been negotiated, but is still awaiting approval from the Cheshire Town Council.
It appeared that the Council would approve the new contract at its meeting on Aug. 9 but, instead, the vote was delayed until a future meeting as the Town Attorney continues to sift through the document. Fire Chief Jack Casner took the lead on negotiating a new deal with Campion, which provides emergency ambulance service throughout the town. The Town's most recent five-year contract with Campion expired on June 30, but the Council extended it 90-days until Sept. 30. Casner, who also serves as the Director of Emergency Management, negotiated a deal that keeps the service level the same as it has been, yet reduces costs in each of the next five fiscal years.
"We could have saved more money, but lowering the service and training was not something we were willing to do," Casner said. "We are not losing anything."
The level of service Cheshire receives is "above and beyond" what Campion is required to have. When an emergency call comes in, Campion dispatches what is known as a "fly car," A red SUV with flashing lights that is driven by a paramedic. An ambulance soon follows. When another call comes in, the fly car can leave and go provide care as a second ambulance is dispatched from Waterbury.
In 2010, Campion responded to nearly 2,300 calls for assistance. The paramedic in the fly car responded to roughly 97 percent of those calls. The remaining 3 percent were when the paramedic had to stay on another call or was in transport to the hospital with a patient, Casner explained.
Casner explained that Campion has to provide the ambulance service to Cheshire, and receives funding from the state of Connecticut, but the "fly car" is above and beyond the scope, and what the Town pays for each year. There were some thoughts of cutting the service, but Casner said that was a compromise he was not willing to make.
"It would be a penny wise and a pound foolish," he said. "The fly car provides an additional level of safety."
Despite cost savings, Casner said the service provided by Campion would not change, and would remain at levels residents have come to expect over the last decade. In total, the proposed new contract would save about $80,000 this current fiscal year, and over the life of the deal, approximately $260,000 would be saved, Casner stated.
Town Attorney Dwight Johnson noted that this was the first time his firm had seen the agreement, and wanted to take some time to clean up some language within the document. Casner said this was his first time negotiating the contract, so he tore it down and started from scratch. Knowing the basic costs of dispatching vehicles and providing life support, he was able to negotiate a better deal with Campion.
Republican Town Councilor Steve Carroll stated that, rather than vote on the contract with some trepidation, he would prefer to wait until September to "vote for this enthusiastically."
The Town Council is expected to act on the new contract at its September meeting.