Guest Column (2/4/10)

Does Williston really need an ambulance?

Feb. 4, 2010

By Kristine Benevento

“Trust is built on two things: doing the right things, and communicating about them well.”

That’s what Emergency Management blogger Gerald Baron writes in his Jan. 27 blog post (

I applaud you, Jeff Fehrs, for stating so eloquently what many of us are thinking. There is something not right in Williston if our Selectboard thinks it is OK to remove our right to vote on a new ambulance and service where we once had the right and privilege three years ago to decide if this is a necessary expenditure. (“Balloting rejected for major issues,” Observer, Jan. 21).

Tell me, Ms. Sassorossi, why do you think this is okay?

If the voice of the people of Williston who initially said no is having that same voice removed because the fire chief and his team found a loophole to gain an ambulance, what does this say about our leadership? I have not read about any reports that our current system is broken or nearing the verge of collapse. We need to decide to purchase necessary items or perform necessary services, not grow our departments when outsourcing seems to work. This decision to remove the vote does not have the feeling of being above board or transparent.

We need to vote to approve bonds for school buses; why not an ambulance? This decision is so much more than a transportation system. If we are so flush in the budget that we can take more than $230,000 and replace a working system, I say this is not a necessary expense. What necessary items in our budget aren’t being dealt with that it would be better use to apply this funding to?

If the Fire/EMS Department can’t find any necessary uses, the rest of our local government sure can. Just because it is in a department budget doesn’t mean you have to use it. The ambulance, service, and personnel were put to vote the first time and denied; please don’t try to sneak it in this loophole, Selectboard, because you can.

If we legitimately need it, the facts — not the loophole — will carry this forward. The voters of Williston should be able to make this important decision that will affect us all because all the information we need has been presented.

A paragraph in the Observer’s Jan. 21 article about the ambulance service read, “Judy Sassorossi said she wanted to include as part of the 2010-11 operating budget $231,915 for the ambulance service. She and other board members felt the arrangement, which could include a lease-purchase for the ambulances, would give the town a way to back out should revenue fall short of expenses.”

What about all the other interconnected pieces that will be in process with other responders who have made their transitions to plans reflective of Williston’s move? These things tend to have a domino effect. Why is it okay to back out just because you don’t have the money?

I always assumed ambulance service was about preserving life. If our “experts” feel this is a necessary move because it will improve health outcomes then backing out shouldn’t really be an option, should it? Why does our leadership really want this ambulance?


Kristine Benevento is a Williston resident.