The 40-year-old department that provides ambulance service to Fitchburg and two other communities came under intense scrutiny in 2018.
Though the question of how the Fitch-Rona EMS Department is governed and structured wasn’t a new question, a study some said was flawed led to ongoing conversations among city leaders about changing or dissolving the district that runs it.
The study, presented by a consultant in August, suggested several ways the city could find more efficiency or provide better service with the department, which serves the cities of Verona and Fitchburg and the Town of Verona. It had been requested to explore Fitchburg’s options partly because it is governed by a commission that comprises three representatives from each municipality, which some felt didn’t provide the city with enough representation.
But multiple alders complained the $18,600 study failed to provide enough information to adequately assess their options. The option that seemingly had the most benefits for the city, according to the report, was creating a city fire/EMS department and contracting with the Veronas, which drew an immediate rebuke from City of Verona Mayor Luke Diaz, a former member of the EMS Commission, and EMS chief Patrick Anderson.
While some alders pushed for changes in an October discussion on the topic, others warned that opening the contract to negotiations could hurt the city financially.
Eventually, Mayor Jason Gonzalez eventually directed staff to compile information on the cost of combining the fire and EMS departments within the city. Alders asked for the information by the end of the year, but it wasn’t discussed before the New Year.
While the discussion over the department’s future waited, the city also once again delayed a plan for a third front-line ambulance that will be stationed at the new east-side fire station.
The city had put off the plan entirely each of the past two years as it went through tight budgets, and it considered holding off one more year, but instead alders voted to delay a few months, until August.