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Town Meeting
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Ambulance Service Sparks Debate At Rochester Town Meeting

About 100 Rochester voters  met Monday night to discuss town business.  They chose a new selectboard member from three candidates and filled a variety of other town offices.

The meeting took place in a school auditorium refurbished after it was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene.To make sure people could hear clearly, a noisy heating system was turned off just before the meeting began.

As the readings outside slid toward zero, the inside temperature followed a similar trajectory.  Finally someone moved that the heat be turned back on.  There were no dissenting votes.

The most heat was generated by the topic of ambulance service for the town.

The local rescue squad closed its doors last year after costs escalated and Rochester chose to sign up with White River Valley Ambulance, located over a mountain in neighboring Bethel.

Initial plans envisioned White River Ambulance operating a 24 hour satellite service on the Rochester side of the mountain.

But voters were told that only last week the ambulance service board decided that for now, a local service could only be staffed during the day.  Many felt the town was being asked to pay just as much for less service.  “We need to have emergency response on this side of the mountain,” Kathy Schenkman told the group. “Is the problem a place for an EMT to reside on the overnight position?  We certainly have facilities here. This time out to get it right isn’t going to stop the things that could possibly happen that would still need that emergency response.”

After much discussion, residents decided to allocate money for emergency services, without specifying who should receive it.

It was a largely symbolic protest of last week’s decision by White River Valley Ambulance, since at the moment there are no other options for emergency services.

There was one resolution on last night’s agenda.  It asked voters to call on the legislature to support a public bank, which would use state money now deposited in large commercial banks to issue loans for local projects. The item is on roughly 20 town meeting warnings. 

After a brief discussion Rochester voters overwhelmingly approved the resolution.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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