I am perplexed that the Lower Cape Ambulance Association (LCAA), a regional nonprofit that has existed since 1937, is losing support and no one seems to be fighting to preserve it.
The LCAA provides ambulance transportation to Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis for Provincetown and Truro. Its ambulances provide backup to the rescue squads of both towns when it is most needed: in the summer, and when there are multiple calls at once. LCAA makes the two- to three-hour round-trip to Hyannis, allowing the town ambulance crews to stay close to home to handle other emergencies.
Last year, Provincetown Fire Chief Michael Trovato revealed that he wants to create a full-time ambulance service and end Provincetown’s relationship with LCAA. Trovato has not provided a public explanation of his reasoning. Provincetown officials were just starting to crunch numbers and consider the likely outcome of Trovato’s recommendation when the coronavirus threw everyone off track, says select board member Bobby Anthony.
Now Truro voters are being asked to decide at the June 30 town election whether to add $351,904 to the town budget to hire four new full-time firefighters. (If approved, this must be voted on again at the Sept. 15 town meeting.)
Provincetown’s and Truro’s fates are linked on this question. Truro Select Board Chair Jan Worthington says this is an insurance policy in case Lower Cape Ambulance “goes down” — that is, if it loses its support from Provincetown, which pays LCAA about $1 million a year, almost half of its $2.2 million budget. Even if LCAA survives, say Truro officials, it would still be good to have the four new firefighter-paramedics.
But Lower Cape Ambulance Director Steven Roderick says that running separate full-time departments won’t ever be as efficient as having a regional service. LCAA enables towns to avoid expensive overtime by hiring people who work full-time in other departments to work on the regional service part-time, he says.
Truro Chief Tim Collins has said he would like to see a cost-benefit analysis of plans to grow his department. In the absence of facts about the Outer Cape’s needs for ambulances and paramedics, we have no way of knowing whether separate town services actually make more sense or not.
Of course, it is entirely possible that there are reasons other than efficiency to plan separately. In that case, voters deserve to hear them, too.
From a reporter’s point of view, this is an appealing challenge: a story only half told. But I have enough experience with deadlines to see that time is running out on getting it.
Next Tuesday’s vote in Truro will set both towns on a path, but it won’t tell us why they’re taking it.