Letter: Ashaway Ambulance situation needs more scrutiny

Letter: Ashaway Ambulance situation needs more scrutiny

Tonight (Tuesday, Sept. 18) there will be a discussion of the recently approved grant of $50,000 from the Ashaway Fire District to the Ashaway Ambulance Association. It is on the agenda of the monthly meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners of the district. The agenda item deals with the meeting with the ambulance association grant.

The Ashaway Ambulance Association has had money from the town withheld by the Hopkinton Town Council in the recent past because of concerns the town council has had with the association. I fully realize the town council has removed the non-payment of recent monies, and the money has been restored. However, the town council has been vigilant in the operation of the ambulance association in regards to the handling their business affairs and nepotism issue.

Since the Ashaway Ambulance Association would be one of the few, if not the only, ambulance association in Rhode Island to get funding from a municipality and a fire district at the same time, this situation is uncommon. I am also curious if the designated ambulance territory of the Ashaway Ambulance Association is the very same as the territory of the Ashaway Fire District. This issue would be relevant if the case is that the Ashaway Fire District taxpayers are paying district taxes to an ambulance association that is partially outside the border of the fire district.

The Ashaway Fire District is governed by a three-member governing board, called the Board of Fire Commissioners. Two of the three members of that board are close relatives of the president and treasurer of the ambulance association. So close are the relationships that the ambulance association president is the daughter of one fire commissioner, and the first cousin of another one. The ambulance association treasurer is the husband of the ambulance association president.

I realize in a small town you can have multiple family members involved in the same things, or closely related groups. However, I think it is relevant what oversight of taxpayer money the fire commissioners plan to have? Will any issues in the future concerning the Ashaway Ambulance Association be left exclusively to the Hopkinton Town Council?

As I will be serving on the 2018-20 Hopkinton Town Council, that is something the next town council will possibly have to deal with. The town council routinely deals each year with budget requests from both the Ashaway Ambulance Association and Hope Valley Ambulance Squad.

I do have concerns about claims that the $50,000 grant from the fire district was a one-time matter, or might be. Short of that continued funding, how could all shifts be maintained? Is that funding enough?

I assume insurance coverage will still be billed and collected? In addition, what is the future of subscriptions to the ambulance association with this funding? Can fire district residents expect to be covered without personal payment when the ambulance service is used?

The recent special meeting of the Ashaway Fire District regarding ambulance funding held last month should have been much better promoted. I recall no letters from officials of either the fire district or ambulance association in the press explaining the vote. Readers need to note that the Ashaway Fire District, a government entity that levies taxes, the Ashaway Ambulance Association, and the Ashaway Volunteer Fire Association are all separate entities.

Tonight’s monthly meeting of the Board of Fire Commissioners will be at the Ashaway Fire Station, 213 Main St., at 6 p.m. There is an open forum during the meeting.

I assume the public will be allowed to speak on the agenda items. An agenda can be obtained for the meeting at the Rhode Island Secretary of State's web site, sos.ri.gov.

I trust this submission will prove of interest to some readers. Those wishing to reach me can do so at ashaway02804@gmail.com or 401-360-4603.

Scott Bill Hirst

The writer is a former officer of the Ashaway Fire District, is the Hopkinton town moderator, a former town council member in Hopkinton and a town council candidate this year.


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