Morristown’s Emergency Medical Services squad could soon be able to transport the most critical of patients and bill at the highest rate, instead of doing it anyway at less premium rates.

The Morristown selectboard Monday approved of the EMS squad upgrading its service license to include “critical care” paramedic transports from Copley Hospital to other places, such as the University of Vermont Medical Center, where patients in the most serious conditions are often taken — sometimes by helicopter — when the care is not available at Copley.

According to EMS director Bill Mapes, with the recent hiring of new paramedic Chris Clement, the crew is now able to provide 96 hours a week of critical care paramedic coverage.

“It’s like having a doctor on board,” Bob Beeman, selectboard chair, said ahead of the unanimous approval of Mapes’ request.

Mapes said EMS already performs emergency transfers from Copley in a pinch, when needed, but the transfer is treated as a 911 call. He said that, with a license upgrade, EMS would be able to bill at the “specialty care transport” rate, the highest level available.

Mapes estimates the crew would be called on for these Copley-to-elsewhere transports 10-12 times a year.

Board member — and soon to be town administrator — Eric Dodge said he worried that Copley might become too reliant on using Morristown EMS for transfers, when the hospital already has agreements for those and “10 to 12 could become 25 to 30,” and get the EMS squad into overtime troubles. Mapes said he has talked with Copley already, and the license would just “formalize the process for what we’re doing already.”

Mapes said the next step is to submit the upgrade request to regional and state authorities.

Other business

Also on the topic of ambulance services, the selectboard agreed Monday to write off $26,783 for ambulance calls over the past year. According to town finance director Tina Sweet, that equates to just under 8 percent of the total calls that were billed by the ambulance service.

There were a total of 782 EMS calls between July 1, 2020 and now, but 300 of them didn’t require an ambulance transport. Of the 482 calls that were billed out, 67 of them needed to be written off, whether because people didn’t or couldn’t pay, didn’t have insurance, or just couldn’t be reached.

Sweet said while there were more EMS calls in the past year, the town had to write off about $1,000 less than the previous one.

• The town awarded its annual $500 Billings Scholarship to Peoples Academy senior Colin Lane, who plans to study wildlife biology at the University of Vermont in the fall. The scholarship is named for J.J. Billings, a logger who worked a 100-acre timber lot in the historic village of Sterling. The town-owned land was sold to the state in 1994 for $20,000 and the interest from that is used for the scholarship, to go to a student interested in either ministry or forest management.

• The town will continue to pay Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department for dispatch services. The board approved a contract with the department to pay just under $133,000 for the next fiscal year for 24-hour dispatch for emergency police, ambulance and fire services, as they already do.

• And the board agreed to enter into an agreement with the Vermont Transportation Agency that allows the public works department “to take over the mowing and beautification” of a parcel of land along Route 100 where the bypass intersects with Bridge Street. Board member Gary Nolan said when the state built the bypass, it purchased that swath of land, and the town has been trying for years “just to get a maintenance agreement so we can mow the stupid thing.”

This agreement now allows that.

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