By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
NAUGATUCK — A new agreement is in place between the borough and Naugatuck Ambulance Corp. to ensure a high level of service from the nonprofit EMS agency.
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses Oct. 5 unanimously approved the three-year agreement that expires on Oct. 4, 2024. The agreement spells out in writing the level of service expected from Naugatuck Ambulance.
“I think the service agreement is a great opportunity for the borough and Naugatuck Ambulance to agree what performance matrix makes sense for the borough for the future,” Naugatuck Ambulance interim CEO Jeremy Rodorigo said.
The agreement comes almost two months after a complete leadership change at Naugatuck Ambulance, which is a private nonprofit that is separate from the borough government.
On Aug. 10, the ambulance company’s then-board of directors and president resigned amid a controversy over the number of calls the agency was passing to surrounding towns for mutual aid. A new board, made up of mostly borough officials, was formed and subsequently named Rodorigo interim CEO. The board has since hired Kyle Kelley from Seymour Ambulance Association to be the next CEO. Kelly was expected to start the job this week.
The service agreement approved last week stipulates that Naugatuck Ambulance must maintain two fully staffed ambulances and one paramedic “fly car” — a separate vehicle that allows a paramedic to get to scenes quicker — available 24/7.
The agreement states Naugatuck Ambulance must respond to priority one calls in 8 minutes, 59 seconds and priority two calls in 15 minutes, unless there’s a reason, like hazardous weather, that prevents crews from hitting those benchmarks.
“It (the agreement) gives the borough and residents significant better service. It’s a great move forward,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said. “We’re thrilled with it and especially happy with the morale of the employees and the quality service they’re delivering.”
If Naugatuck Ambulance fails to meet the standards set in the agreement, then the agency will have to give up its primary service area responder (PSAR) designation to the borough without a hearing, said Ken Hanks, president of the Naugatuck Ambulance board of directors and the borough’s deputy fire chief.
The state awards PSAR designations, which grant rights to the holder to provide emergency medical service in a given area.
Officials say Naugatuck Ambulance is meeting expectations.
Rodorigo said the agency is fully staffed and has had no gaps in coverage over the past month.
Hanks said the agency now has about 30 part-time employees, compared to about 14 employees before the leadership transition. There is a waiting list for people that want to work at the agency, he said.
“The morale is higher. The employees are engaged. Employees are pitching in doing maintenance,” Hanks said. “Everyone is stepping up and being a part of the organization.
Things are looking good.”
According to a report given to the borough board, the average response time for priority one calls was 5.32 minutes in September, while the agency responded to priority two calls in an average of 6.84 minutes.
Naugatuck Ambulance received 498 calls in September. The agency only needed aid from another town six times and provided mutual aid 33 times, according to the report.
Under the service agreement, the borough won’t pay Naugatuck Ambulance but may provide operating capital to the agency.
Since the change in August, the borough has given the ambulance company $125,000 and pledged up to $275,000 as needed. The money was used for repairs and to purchase equipment, including an ambulance and radios. The agreement states Naugatuck Ambulance has to pay back funds provided by the borough at no interest within three years, unless the borough extends the deadline or forgives the debt.
The borough will lease Naugatuck Ambulance the building at 246 Rubber Ave. for a dollar a year, according to the agreement.
Hess said he’s absolutely pleased with the changes at Naugatuck Ambulance.
“I feel great about it,” Hess said. “I sleep better at night knowing our residents are protected.”
Rodorigo is director of business development at Waterbury Hospital. The hospital “loaned” him to the borough at no cost to help with the transition. His last scheduled day was Oct. 10. He expects a bright future for the company.
“As far as the future, I think Kelly and Naugatuck Ambulance employees will launch this organization even further,” Rodorigo said. “I think that Naugatuck Ambulance will soon be a premier ambulance service in the state.”