BERLIN — Berlin Emergency Medical Service is being sold to a Maryland-based private medical transportation that will continue to provide service to the city under an existing contract that runs through June 2022.
BEMS owner Chris Dubey told the city council Monday night that he has agreed to sell his stock in BEMS to Butler Medical Transport. He said Butler will significantly upgrade services and equipment over what his company could provide and will make the upgrade in a few months. Dubey said Butler will have power lift stretchers and mobile Wi-Fi on the ambulances, allowing better communication with hospitals. Butler will retain all of his employees with upgrades in benefits. Dubey said he will not be staying on with the company.
Dubey said Butler will continue to honor BEMS’s contract with the city, which provides a subsidy for the ambulance service. He said closing of the sale has been delayed by some financial issues with BEMS’s federal PPP payment but the negotiation is complete. Dubey said Butler is interested in negotiating a longer agreement with the city.
“We’re looking to be here as a partner for a long time,” added Butler Chief Operating Officer Will Rosenberg, who was on the council’s Zoom meeting. He said the company is not looking to change the current subsidy or seek a large increase in the rate. Rosenberg said his company is looking at making large financial investments in the city and just wants some security.
Mayor Paul Grenier said he didn’t think the parties should be talking publicly about financial arrangements. Rather, he said Butler should sit down with City Manager Jim Wheeler to negotiate a long-term agreement that would then come before the council. Grenier noted that such an agreement could serve both parties’ interests.
Rosenberg assured the council that Butler is a small privately held company and is not a large conglomerate or owned by a private equity firm.
“So, we are not driven by numbers completely,” he said.
The council thanked Dubey for his years of service.
City Manager James Wheeler reviewed his reorganization plan for the Public Works Department, which has gone through two directors in less than two years.
Wheeler has been overseeing the department since the resignation of Ben Hall last month and formerly served as city engineer and public works director. Wheeler said the public works director position has evolved to include components of four positions — director, city engineer, city engineering assistant and general foreman. Underneath the director are four supervisors who oversee streets and solid waste, sewer and drains, parks, garage and equipment maintenance.
Under the new organizational structure, the director’s position would focus on planning, budgeting, administration, asset management and project development.
A new assistant director position would be created with responsibility for day-to-day operations. Instead of four supervisors, there would be three overseeing the execution of planned and unplanned/response work and reporting to the assistant director.
Wheeler stressed the reorganization will be budget neutral. He will start by filling the assistant director position, which will first be posted internally.
Wheeler said he has spoken to all four supervisors and encouraged them to apply for the assistant director position.
Grenier asked if any of the councilors were opposed to the reorganization and the board indicated it supported the new structure.
In other business:
• Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme reported only one consultant responded to the city’s request for proposals to update Berlin’s master plan. She reminded the council that it has been 10 years since the plan was done. While only Resilience Planning and Design, LLC., responded,Laflamme said she was pleased with the firm’s proposal. She noted that Resilience’s Principal Planner Steve Whitman worked on the city’s last master plan. The city has received a $20,000 grant from the Tillotson Foundation that will cover most of the $35,000 cost. The council approved hiring Resilience.
• The council approved granting Brookfield Renewable Power an option on 3.8 acres of city land the company is interested in purchasing for a battery storage project. Brookfield will pay $10,000 for a one-year option, renewable for an additional six months for $15,000. Negotiated price for the parcel is $92,000.
• City Clerk Shelli Fortin was successful in locating and applying for a $5,900 grant to reimburse the city for election costs. The council praised her for her efforts and held a first reading of the resolution authorizing the city to accept it.
• Mayor Grenier explained that he participates in a monthly Zoom meeting with other mayors from across the state and the issue of homelessness has become a growing concern. He said the mayors have decided to send a joint letter to Gov. Chris Sununu on the crisis and Grenier asked to sign the letter on behalf of Berlin. The council unanimously approved his request.
• City Manager James Wheeler reported that the police department ordered two Ford Explorers but the vehicles are unavailable so the department has purchased two basic pickup trucks at a cost less than offered through the state bid list. Once the vehicles have exceeded their life as cruisers, Wheeler said they will be transferred for use by public works.
• Supervisors of the Checklist will be meeting in city hall from 7-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27 for people who want to register to vote or make changes to their address. Positive identification and proof of domicile is required.
The city clerk’s office will be preprocessing absentee ballots on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 10 a.m. at the city hall auditorium. The public is welcome to attend.