EDITORIAL: Kudos (and attention) in order for EMS

We’ll have to wait for the real-world figures to roll in, but the town’s District Board of Ambulance Commissioners estimated the merger would result in about a $100,000 decrease in the tax levy. Maintaining quality of service while reducing taxes qualifies as a win in our book.

Not everyone was initially on board with the plan, though. When the aforementioned board came out with the idea in September of 2012, it was said the merger was being met with some resistance, and EMS leaders said the timetable was too aggressive. Nevertheless, a scant three months later, a combined EMS force was online.

Government does not typically move at anything approaching that speed. It says a lot about the leadership in these organizations that rubber was wedded with road so quickly. Likewise, it speaks to the caliber of those riding with EMS in Bethlehem, volunteer or paid, that everyone was willing to adapt.

There’s a lesson here that can be applied elsewhere.

There are five fire departments serving the people of Bethlehem (seven if you count the multiple arms of the Selkirk Fire Department). A 2011 study, commissioned collectively by those departments, suggested they be merged into two organizations and finally, in a decade’s time, a singular unit.

There’s effectively been zero movement on the suggestion — indeed, when we originally reported on the study’s findings some firefighters basically shrugged the idea off despite an agreement it would save money and even help firefighters do a better job. It would seem that for many, autonomy and individual identity is more important than effectiveness, even in a job so serious as fighting fires.

What’s happened with the town’s ambulance service challenges that outmoded thinking. These organizations found a way to organize a speedy merger that saved money, and lo and behold, the world kept turning. For fire departments, it might be time for another look at consolidation — a serious one, this time.

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