Despite a request to provide funding, the town of Essex won’t allocate any fiscal year 2020 dollars to the specialized emergency agency that serves the town, municipal manager Evan Teich confirmed last week.
The town of Colchester had asked Essex for $10,000 to support its technical rescue squad, which performed 11 emergency calls in Essex borders over the last five fiscal years, or about 15 percent of its total calls. But a staff budget proposal excluded the request because town officials say they don’t want to set a precedent for paying for mutual aid.
Teich explained Essex currently exchanges services and resources with other surrounding towns in lieu of actual payment for mutual aid. He said Essex does the same for other towns, including lending the police department’s newly acquired K9 and police officer.
“If another community has a lost person, we send the officer and the dog, we don’t ask them for funding; it’s just something we do,” he said. “And other communities have other assets, so that’s mainly the reason why our board said not at this time.”
Colchester deputy town manager Geoffrey Urbanik said Colchester Technical Rescue has about $40,000 in unfunded equipment repairs and replacements as well as salary considerations. The program has about $1 million in capital assets that will also eventually need replacing, he added. He said the town felt it was time to ask Essex to support the technical rescue program because Colchester contributes $20,000 annually to Essex’s Community Justice Center, along with Milton.
Teich, however, said it’s a little different because Colchester is not the only town contributing: The CJC is funded by the consortium of towns it serves, which pay their fair share for expenses not covered by the state grant that funds the program. He added the community social workers from the Howard Center shared by several surrounding towns work the same way.
“We have all worked together to pay for those services, and we pay a proportionate share,” he said.
Essex was the only town Colchester approached with a funding request, Teich said, despite other communities in the region benefiting from the service.
When towns start offering regional services, it’s difficult to nail down who should pay, Urbanik said.
“Next year there may be a different approach where we look at a wider region,” he said. “We would like to keep the equipment relatively new and in great shape, and that means a significant investment in this area and see how that would work.”
Urbanik clarified that the town will “remain committed to Colchester technical rescue” and replace gear and equipment as needed. However, he said there is no current solution for the unfunded management time, and Mike Cannon will continue to run the program without pay until a solution can be worked out.
Urbanik added there are no hard feelings between the two towns, and he hopes they can work in the future to figure out better solutions to managing regional services.
“Sooner or later, it’s going to be too big of a burden for one town to carry on, and how do we solve that?” Urbanik asked. “If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter.”