Monday, October 14, 2013

A New Deal

AFD North Station Friday morning 10/4, calm before the storm

The "5 Year Strategic Agreement" with UMass/Amherst, now well into its 7th year (expired 6/30/12), reminds me of a tech nerd who upgrades their older beloved computer using the Dr. Frankenstein approach of installing a new plug-in card or mother board rather than just buying a new computer.

UMass last year paid the town $363,718 for fire/EMT protection, mainly because UMass has its own police department (larger and better funded than Amherst PD) but not a full time fire/ambulance department.

Recently UMass coughed up an additional $80,000 to staff two town ambulances on weekends to deal with the spike in calls somewhat due to "substance abuse" calls (mainly alcohol).  So at the very least, that extra $80,000 should become a permanent part of the new-and-improved "Strategic Agreement."

The Town Manager had an excuse last year for simply extending the agreement because, after all, he was only named Town Manager in 2010; and of course there was that coup d'état at UMass that brought down Chancellor Holub in 2011, although allowing him a lame-duck extra year.

 UMass accounts for 19% of AFD calls

There's absolutely no question the extra weekend staffing is both vitally necessary and well utilized.  In fact, the 1st weekend of October, even with all the extra staffing, AFD still had to call in two mutual aid ambulances from Northampton and one from Belchertown.

 Mutual aid still required 8 times this past September, but down from an average of 15 in previous 2 years

UMass accounts for 19% of calls thus far this year. And with the extra $80K UMass pays Amherst for additional weekend ambulance coverage they will pay us a total of  $443,718 this year.  But AFD's budget this year is $4,114,438. 

So their fair share (19%) should come to $781,707. And that extra $337,989 would cover adding AFD staff on the weekdays as well.

Because it's also apparent additional staffing is needed NOT just on weekends.

 A Wednesday night delay


Anonymous said...


Have you compared the number of students at Amherst and Hampshire college with the number of calls. Amherst got 4% vs Umass at 19% but I am guessing Umass is more than 5 times as big as Amherst college.

You do have a good point about the 19% overall thought.

Hadley certainly seems to use us a lot as well. Is that reimbursement proportional?

Dr. Ed said...

Ummm, if UMass is already paying for ambulance service -- which, I presume, are also fully paid for by the users as well, then why do they have to pay even more to have extra staffing on Fri & Sat nights when they already are paying for extra staffing?

How much does the Amherst Housing Authority pay -- for fire, ambulance AND POLICE protection? Sooner or later the UM students are going to realize that they are getting screwed -- but then they get screwed attending UM anyway...

The Juggernaut said...

A small cost compared to what the institution brings to the town.

Larry Kelley said...

Yeah, and if your spouse's boss offer a hefty raise in exchange for sex ...

Anonymous said...

UMass perhaps should reopen Emergency Services on campus to keep more ambulances available for the rest of the population and to save ambulance time to and from NoHo.

Larry Kelley said...

That would be a big help.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused by your figure. What is it adjusted for, and is it comparing sept 13 to all months average in '12 and '13? Including the summer and winter months? Perhaps a September by year breakdown would be a more accurate representation of the data.

Dr. Ed said...

I think it is time to split the fire department from the ambulance department, at lest on paper.

The ambulance service, unless badly mismanaged, likely comes at least close to breaking even as it is sending out bills. The fire department, of course, doesn't because it isn't (and shouldn't).

Were this to be split out, you'd find that UMass isn't costing you what you think it is.

Dr. Ed said...

One other thing Larry -- you go after UMass & AC/HC to make PILOT payments -- why aren't you making similar demands of all the other nonprofits in town who also aren't paying property taxes????

There are all kinds of small touchie-feelie and otherwise leftist nonprofits who own a house or two and individually are insignificant but collectively own a higher taxable value than UMass *and* likely collectively consume a higher value of municipal services than UMass.

Not that I will ever defend the purgatorial cesspool, but one who is intellectually honest has to remember that Planet UMass not only has the UMPD but also EH&S's
Foxtrot-One" -- a 24/7 on-call quasi-firefighter with a panel truck that has red lights & siren.

A non-profit like the Amherst Women's Club has none of these "self-help" resources and thus is totally dependent upon municipal resources.

How many people even know how many properties in Amherst aren't taxed? Say, for example, the 33 Pomeroy Lane Coop (right behind the Hess Station) -- that's a non-profit, do they pay property tax? (I know for a fact that they have consumed APD services in the past...)

For that matter, while I'm all for both Vets & drinking beer, is the VFW paying property taxes? I've seen the beer kegs being rolled in there on more than one occasion -- and I mean "kegs" as in not just one -- and if you are going to make an issue of what UMass' "fair share" of the bill should be, you gotta look at absolutely everyone else who isn't paying property taxes too!

Likewise, where UMass has an ongoing fire-prevention program including increasingly sophisticated fire alarm systems, where a significant percentage of UM buildings also have sprinkler systems, and where almost all of the UM buildings are made out of concrete, steel and other such stuff that doesn't itself burn -- the nonprofits largely own older wood-framed buildings with little in the way of fire prevention equipment.

Amherst itself actually often benefits from the UM "self-help" resources -- when the big yellow house on the corner of Lincoln & something caught fire some years back, it was the UMass guys who got there first (they were closer. Notwithstanding my legitimate concerns with/about the UMPD, were it a desperate situation where 90 seconds mattered, I have no doubt the UMPD guys would go in and carry Grandma out.

Hence, Larry, I ask why you make such an issue of UMass consuming municipal services but not paying property taxes but ignore all the other non-taxed properties that likewise consume municipal services.

Larry Kelley said...

Because those tax exempts use nowhere near the amount of public services as the Colleges and University.

Dr. Ed said...

Part 1 of 2:
Three questions for the AFD Union:

First: Does the Town of Amherst follow the protocol of many municipalities today of rolling a police car on all medical/ambulance calls? Or if not on all calls, on certain types of calls?

I'm not talking about situations where you request their assistance upon arriving (e.g. for crowd or traffic control) but where they are concurrently dispatched *with* you.

Larry, to the extent that APD rolls with AFD on off-campus medical calls, you gotta either add that in on those runs or deduct it from the UMass ones because the UMPD is doing this.

Second: When the AFD has a mixed Fire/EMS call such as a MVA, is there any distinction made between what is "firefighter work" (e.g. cutting someone out of the wrecked car) and what is "EMT work" (e.g. stabilization & transport) -- and how do you calculate it when some of the same guys are qualified to do both and hence do the one that is most needed?

Likewise, do you make any calculation of the resources you bring in case they are needed even though not used? My point is that while the high school kid who wrapped her car around a pole and the college kid who drank too much are both "ambulance runs" (and presumably billed the same to the respective insurance companies), the MVA not only used but tied up a whole lot more resources. The risk was a lot higher -- gasoline, power lines that are 8700 volts to ground -- and you sent more people & more equipment, even if it wasn't needed, then you did for the drunken kid in the dorm.

Third: while sprinklers prevent big fires, they actually *increase* the number of fire calls -- in addition to the actual fires they extinguish, they can be set off accidentally as well.

Some years back, in one of the UMass towers, a kid returned from break with a really large box of fireworks that he had purchased in a southern state. The little genius came up with the bright idea of shooting one out the window but somehow managed to miss, instead bouncing it off the wall and into the opened box, where it proceeded to ignite the rest of the fireworks.

As I understand it, the sprinklers extinguished what would otherwise have been a rather nasty fire -- one that would have been even worse had it been a kid in the upstairs bedroom of a wood-framed house.

Dr. Ed (part 2) said...

Part 2 of 2
Hence, in addition to the simple counting of number of calls rolled on, do you either do any risk assessments of potential situations you could be confronted with and/or evaluation of the seriousness of the actual calls you roll on?

In other words, ten calls at 10PM to UMass versus ten calls at 10PM to wooden-framed buildings elsewhere in town -- I'm guessing that the latter (cumulatively) are going to be more serious and that you will be needing more resources and for a longer period of time to deal with them. QED, those runs cost more.

Larry, think in terms of apples & watermelons. While both are not only edible fruit but items which can be counted, as watermelons are so much bigger & heavier than apples, any count comingling them becomes irrelevant.

Think of the resources needed to bring a couple hundred of each to an event -- while you could bring the apples in your car, you're gonna need at truck for the watermelons.

And I really do not think it intellectually honest for you to be using a simple percentage of calls figure to calculate the UM "share" of the AFD "cost" -- and even less intellectually honest for you to do so on the basis of gross rather than net cost.

Maybe the AFD doesn't "see" the revenue from its ambulance bills -- there are multiple issues if the town is not putting the ambulance bill revenue back into the ambulance service as it is essentially an enterprise fund -- but the bottom line is that there is revenue to the AFD from all these drunken kids they are hauling across the river and that needs to be factored into (i.e. deducted from) calculations of the cost of these runs.

It would be one thing to demand that the parents of the Commonwealth subsidize Amherst taxpayers because you feel entitled -- and that attitude does exist. But it is another thing entirely to quote statistics out of context and to artificially skew cost percentages.

Facts do matter.

Dr. Ed said...

Because those tax exempts use nowhere near the amount of public services as the Colleges and University.


Particularly when you include police protection?


Anonymous said...

Seriously Ed, the more you post the more I wonder if it is ignorance or stupidity. You constantly say facts matter but then ramble on and on and on (and on and on...) without a single fact. You have just shown us, once again, that you have NO idea what you're talking about when it comes to emergency services, so thanks for proving that. At least we have one fact now.