Arlington looking to study emergency services amid challenges

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ARLINGTON — A citizen volunteer group and the town's fire and emergency rescue services are looking to commission a study on how the squads could prepare for the future amid growing challenges in talent recruitment.

The Arlington Area Renewal Project's public safety committee suggested conducting a study "about what the future of emergency services would look like, five to 10 years down the road," said Jim Baker, the volunteer group's executive director.

Fire departments and emergency medical services throughout the country have been experiencing volunteer shortages as older members retire and fewer young people sign up to take their place.

"We're just trying to broker opportunities that will help the town move forward," and the study could produce a road map, Baker said in an interview Monday. The scope of the study and who would conduct it are still being sorted, he said.

The Arlington Select Board agreed that the study is crucial but said the group wanted to be more involved in the study's planning and execution - not just approving final recommendations.

The town provides funding to the Arlington Fire Department in its annual budget, with about $194,000 allotted for the current year, according to town records.

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"I just want them to understand that we'll be interested to see whatever they turn up with, but we're not necessarily gonna adopt it," said Select Board Member Cynthia Browning during an April 22 meeting.

"The more they involve this board and this office in their planning process, the better chances their recommendations would have," she said, adding that officials elected by taxpayers bring a different perspective to the table.

The study was brought up at the meeting, because the groups involved asked the Select Board for a letter of support.

Municipal Resources Inc., a New Hampshire-based consulting group that has conducted similar studies around the country, was being considered for the project, said Select Board Chairman Keith Squires.

The Arlington Fire Department would shoulder the study's expense, estimated at $35,000, with the help of the Arlington Rescue Squad and other funders, Squires said. The study wouldn't directly cost the town any taxpayer dollars, he said.

"I totally agree with the concept of it," Squires said. "This is a problem that's nationwide, definitely Vermont statewide ... We don't have the volunteers. How do we deal with these things moving forward?"

Tiffany Tan can be reached at ttan@benningtonbanner.com, @tiffgtan at Twitter and 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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