2011-04-07 / Front Page

JEMS workshop planned

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Jamestown Town Council has scheduled a workshop to assess the findings and recommendations of a report on the town’s Emergency Medical Services. The report — which recommends disbanding JEMS and folding it into the Jamestown Fire Department — was formally accepted by the Council during its April 4 meeting.

The report is available on the town’s home page and was prepared by Municipal Resources Inc. While it wasn’t discussed during the Council meeting, Councilor Ellen Winsor noted that the report has some differences from an earlier draft.

Council President Mike Schnack dismissed the disparities. “I don’t find the differences between the draft and the final report that alarming,” said Schnack, who pointed out that an MRI representative would be on hand for the workshop, which has been scheduled for Wednesday, April 13.

The JEMS discussion will be held as part of the Council’s fi- nal budget workshop, at which point, said Schnack, public comment on the report will be accepted. If a previous letter to the councilors from JEMS staff is any indication, the public comments from supporters could be contentious.

“The MRI team initially believed that the conflicts between [JEMS and the Fire Department] could be resolved amicably,” the March 30 letter read. “The question needs to be asked: Why would MRI rewrite the text to reflect a different perspective on this?”

The motion to accept the MRI report included a directive to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser to devise an “action plan” in response to its findings. The motion also directs Keiser to present the plan to the Council no later than May 31.

Among its other findings, the MRI report says that that there is a serious conflict between JEMS and the Fire Department that is detrimental to both organizations. The document mentions that documented response problems and operational errors by JEMS have eroded public confi- dence in the ability of JEMS to provide quality pre-hospital care.

Also, the report said that “JEMS has suffered from the loss of membership and low morale.”

The MRI report concludes, “We recommend that the contract between the town and JEMS be dissolved, and that the Fire Department establish an EMS division under the supervision of a qualified deputy fire chief.”

“EMS is the most important issue before this council,” said Council member Bill Murphy. “We want to do what’s right for the people of Jamestown, and keep in mind that six years ago, we consolidated [some of JEMS operations], so the recommendations aren’t as new as people think. We need to support the town administrator and do what’s right. At the end of the day, people come to the same conclusion: doing what’s right for the people of Jamestown.”

Meanwhile, Keiser will launch the studies necessary for the Council to reach a final decision on the construction of a municipal wind turbine, a decision which could be affected by the latest in a long series of complications. This time, it’s the state Public Utilities Commission investigation into the price for electricity generated by the Portsmouth wind turbine.

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero warned the councilors that, “Depending on the outcome, you may have to re-calculate the fi- nancials because if you’re unable to sell at retail rates, it could have significant impacts [on revenue projections].”

Although a number of bills addressing “net-metering” issues are pending in the state General Assembly, “it would probably be wise for [Jamestown] to start modeling [the impacts],” Keiser said.

The utilities commission initiated its investigation when a Newport resident alleged that the contract between Portsmouth and National Grid violates the state net-metering law by allowing the town to sell all of its electricity at a retail rate. The resident asserts that the law limits retail sales to surplus power, meaning the power left over after supplying electricity to one or more municipal facilities.

Ruggiero said that the utilities commission will hold a prehearing on April 12, when one of the key debates will involve the status of various groups and municipalities hoping to intervene on the side of Portsmouth.

A branch of the attorney general’s office is challenging the validity of the requested interventions, Ruggiero said, because “they’re hoping to narrow the field of objectors [to the commission investigation].”

In the meantime, Keiser said, Alteris Renewables is preparing the application for a National Grid estimate of the costs to upgrade the Jamestown power grid to accommodate a 1.65-megawatt turbine.

Keiser also informed the councilors that Alteris expects to set up a Sonic Detection and Ranging System—which will measure and evaluate the wind energy available at Taylor Point—within three weeks.

Concerning a long-standing issue, which arose when the owners of a Beavertail Road property altered a stream and wetlands on their property, the Council tasked Keiser with sending a letter to the Coastal Resources Management Council for the purpose of requesting additional response to the violations of state regulations.

Carol Trocki, the chairwoman of the Jamestown Conservation Commission, told the Council that the CRMC has already issued seven cease-and-desist orders, and levied a $17,500 fine in response to “serious coastal violations” at 260 Beavertail Road.

Trocki said the violations, which included the diversion of a wetland tributary “to create a pond,” have major “implications for the hydrology of the area.”

The property owners have not submitted a restoration plan or paid the fines, Trocki said, adding that she met with CRMC enforcement staff to discuss the situation. According to Trocki, the hearing that the CRMC subsequently scheduled was postponed and hasn’t been re-scheduled.

“We are asking for the Town Council’s support to encourage the CRMC to address the problem,” Trocki told the councilors. She added that a letter from the town “would let the CRMC know that someone is paying attention, so we would like you to throw your weight behind this.”

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