DERRY | Town Councilor Kevin Coyle says interim Town Administrator John Moody and fire Chief George Klauber violated the town charter by signing contracts to provide ambulance service to Chester and Auburn without bringing the agreements to the council first.

But Moody said when signing the contract he did the same thing that other administrators have done in the past. State law, the town's charter and local ordinances are clear in allowing the administrator to sign contracts on behalf of the town and allowing the town to have inter-municipal agreements, he said.

Coyle said he has two problems with the agreements with Chester and Auburn. The first is that the town isn't charging enough for the service ($45,000 per town), and the second is that an ambulance could be in another town when a Derry resident needs it. He plans to ask that all inter-municipal agreements come to the council for review in the future.

"We're committing the town of Derry to provide services to other towns," he said. "What if the police chief wanted to cover Chester and Auburn? Do we not get a say in that?"

Coyle said if the town is going to provide ambulance service to other towns, the cost of providing ambulance service should be split between those towns based on population. If that happened, Chester would pay around $500,000.

"Should we be giving that away to two surrounding towns for $90,000? My opinion is no," he said, noting that Derry taxpayers pay $9 million for fire and ambulance service through the town budget. He said he thinks the contracts are invalid because they did not go to the council for review.

But Klauber said in addition to the $45,000 Derry collects from each town for providing ambulance service, it collects from the patients or their insurance carrier. Last year, that amounted to almost another $100,000.

The department also has a plan in place to cover calls if personnel are at other emergencies, including in other towns for ambulance calls or mutual aid, Klauber said. He noted that the department has three other ambulances that could be used in Derry and could also call on nearby towns for help if needed. He said the department has never had a situation where the department was unable to respond to an incident because it was at a medical call in another town.

Meanwhile, Moody said he consulted with the town's attorneys, who said he was within state and local regulations to sign the contracts, and they are valid.

Since the 1970s, Moody said the Town Council has approved the rates the town charges to patients for use of the ambulance service, but not the individual contracts with the other towns.

But Coyle said he felt "sandbagged" when the council learned at a recent budget meeting the contracts had been signed without bringing them to the council because he made his concerns clear at a council meeting last year.

Klauber said he answered questions at the time about the cost of ambulance service to the other towns, which the department found to be about $11,000 when considering the cost of fuel, maintenance and similar costs. Those costs do not include the labor because he said the department would need the same number of firefighters even if it didn't provide ambulance service.

"I thought that was the end of it," he said, noting that the Fire Department was not notified by the Town Council not to enter into future contracts.

This Week's Circulars

Recommended for you