Both East Hampton and Sag Harbor villages have opted for paid emergency service personnel as part of their 2014-15 budgets, in an effort to bolster response time that currently relies on volunteer crews.
The East Hampton Village Board, which voted unanimously to present a budget in excess of the 1.46-percent tax levy cap on May 1, allotted $100,000 for a paid emergency service responder program. That expenditure, along with $30,000 designated for a deer sterilization program, resulted in a 2.75-percent increase in spending.
East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach said the decision stemmed from how difficult it can be to pull together a volunteer crew for a call in the middle of a workday, given that many ambulance volunteers hold full-time jobs. East Hampton and Sag Harbor join Montauk and Amagansett in creating paid programs. Amagansett Fire Department shifted to a paid EMT program in March, while Montauk implemented the pilot program last summer.
“Montauk really led the pack here,” Mr. Rickenbach said, attributing the hamlet’s decision to pay EMTs as the inspiration for the village. “Our voluntary responders have been very supportive, and we wholeheartedly support them. But this is a necessary first step.”
Dwayne Denton, chief of the Amagansett Fire Department, could not be reached for comment, nor could Joseph Lenahan, chief of the Montauk Fire Department.
Montauk was the first hamlet in East Hampton Town to pay emergency service workers after an increase in 911 calls last summer.
“What happened in Montauk happened for a reason,” said Mr. Rickenbach. “They were having difficulty getting people to respond in the daytime. We watched that unfold in that hamlet, and we’re suffering from a similar dilemma during daytime hours.”
Mr. Rickenbach said that, as of now, East Hampton Village is looking to hire only part-time, “independently contracted” EMS workers. He was unsure of how many employees the department would bring on. The village cannot hire volunteers within its own district, added Mr. Rickenbach.
“We may have to revisit the whole delivery of service and reflect on what we might have to do down the road,” he said of the decision to hire only part-time employees. “It’s all reflective of the landscape out here. There are a lot of transient people in the summer, but there are also more families that are relocating to East Hampton and the surrounding environment.”
Sag Harbor Village also opted for a similar paid EMT program after officially adopting its 2014-15 budget on May 1. The village budget will designate $63,500 to a full-time ambulance staff member, said Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride. The salary is $42,500 plus the cost of benefits, he said.
“The position would be to have a person at the firehouse at all times to do administrative-type work, but could also respond to a call if one were to come in,” said Mayor Gilbride.
Mayor Gilbride said he is planning to meet with the ambulance committee in Sag Harbor this week to determine the best way to move forward with implementing the program. He added that this is “the first step” in the right direction, and would consider having part-time employees cover various shifts if there is an increase in demand.
“I applaud all the municipalities that’re doing this. It just shows the need and the kind of dedication of these men and women have. I see them all the time, every weekend, there’s training going on—it’s a very active group.”