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Chelmsford, Mass., Officials Seek Residents to Serve on Ambulance Committee

LOWELL, Mass. -- Town officials are looking for seven residents to weigh in on whether a Fire Department-run ambulance service will work for Chelmsford, Mass.

Applications to join the Ambulance Committee must be submitted along with a r sum to the town manager s office on or before Thursday, Nov. 1.

We want to see what areas of expertise people have that might really benefit the committee, said Selectmen Chairman Sam Chase.

The Ambulance Committee will be charged with studying Town Manager Paul Cohen s proposal to shift the town s ambulance service from its 14-year contractor, Trinity, to a public/private partnership with the Fire Department as the first responders and a private company as backup.

Cohen unveiled two proposals for an in-house ambulance service since Aug. 27, with the goal of keeping all of the town s five fire stations open.

Due to budget constraints, three fire stations had to close on a rotating basis over the summer months.

Cohen ultimately wanted to bring the proposal before Town Meeting, but it fueled a firestorm of controversy over public safety that divided town officials and residents alike.

In a 3-2 vote, selectmen tabled the proposal last month, with Selectmen -- Phil Eliopoulos, Clare Jeannotte and Pat Wojtas -- arguing that they needed more information before they could approve bringing the plan to voters.

I want to do it once and do it right, Jeannotte had said.

I don t think the truth has ever suffered from furthering an investigation. If it was the right plan yesterday, it will still be the right plan tomorrow.

Saying he didn t want the Board of Selectmen to feel that he put them under pressure, Cohen suggested extending the contract with the town s current service provider, Trinity Ambulance, Inc., until June 30, and putting a committee together to further study the benefits of a fire-based ambulance service.

Chase said the Committee will be asked to look at a 1994 study conducted by the previously formed ambulance committee that rejected the idea of an in-house service, as well as Cohen s current proposal and a report submitted last year by former Town Manager Bernie Lynch.

Lynch opposed the idea, calling it an expensive mistake, that would result in the town losing more money than it would gain.

Selectmen hope to form the committee by Tuesday, Nov. 6. Cohen said he s anticipating a lot of interest from the community.

People are very interested in this issue, Cohen said.

And the Stipend Committee has shown what putting a good group of people together can do.

For more information, call the Town Manager s office at (978) 250-5201, or e-mail pcohen@townofchelmsford.us.

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