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Town Council Recognizes Stratford EMS Volunteers

Council also debates a funding transfer and hears supporters on the Stratford EMS reorganization.

The Stratford EMS was a chief topic for the Town Council Tuesday, first when the Council honored four top volunteer members of the ambulance service, and later during a debate over a funding transfer for automated electronic defibrillators (AEDs).

The four volunteer members of the Stratford EMS -- Jamie O’Connell, Greg Thornhill, Steve Gill and Matt White -- were recognized for their contributions to the organization.

O’Connell, Thornhill and Gill are the members who have volunteered the highest, second-highest and third-highest number of hours, and White, who lost his leg in a motor vehicle accident, was recognized for his inspirational perseverance.

Mayor John A. Harkins and Councilmen Christian Barnaby (R-1) and Jason Santi (D-4) presented the citations of recognition during the Town Council meeting in Town Hall, and the members of the Town Council also hosted a reception for the honorees and the other members of the ambulance service.

The evening's debate took place after Santi, the chairman of the EMS funding committee, introduced a proposed transfer of $25,000 from the EMS Fund to the fire department budget in order to purchase eight AEDs.

The automated defibrillators are portable, life-saving devices that can restore normal function to the heart of a person experiencing a heart attack.

Santi said several years ago, the town ordered 17 new AEDs to replace old units that are kept on the town’s ambulances and fire trucks. However, only nine were actually ordered, so now the committee wanted to reorder the other eight.

But other Council members said they opposed using money from the EMS Fund, which come from fees paid by people transported in ambulances and their insurance companies, to the fire department budget.

They said the fire department has a much larger budget to begin with, and the units should have properly been included in the fire department’s capital purchases program.

Harkins supported the transfer, noting that the taxpayers would pay for them if it comes from the fire department budget.

Town Attorney Timothy Bishop noted that a town ordinance limits the use of the EMS Fund to spending for Stratford EMS or any other emergency medical services expense. Therefore, this purchase is allowed, even though the AEDs would be used by the Stratford Fire Department, Bishop said.

The measure passed by a 6-4 vote.

Stratford EMS was the topic of discussion even before the Town Council meeting started on Tuesday. Several town residents and EMS volunteers spoke at the monthly public forum preceding the meeting to support the new Stratford EMS reorganization under EMS director Phil Onofrio.

Several of those who spoke said they were angered by a letter to the editor in the Connecticut Post (also published on Stratford Patch) by four high-ranking members of the EMS squad who said they were demoted by the reorganization.

One of the letter-writers was EMS Capt. Jonathan Best. The speakers said they felt Best should not have been a captain while his wife, Donna Best, was the previous EMS director.

The public forum speakers said since Onofrio’s appointment, the number of volunteers and the amount of hours they have volunteered have gone up significantly.

Fifty members of the Stratford EMS .

Chief Administrative Officer Geen Thazhampallath said he would soon propose a new supervisory structure for the ambulance service for the EMS committee’s consideration.

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