Rescue Inc. takes over Keene firm

Brattleboro nonprofit ambulance service to ‘provide continuity’ for R.J. DiLuzio Ambulance

BRATTLEBORO — Windham County's largest and longest-serving emergency medical services provider is set to take over for a cash-strapped peer in neighboring New Hampshire.

Rescue Inc., a Brattleboro-based nonprofit, will assume the obligations of the family-owned R.J. DiLuzio Ambulance, which has wrestled with a $648,965 federal tax bill in the Granite State city of Keene and surrounding Cheshire County towns.

“They have been struggling financially, and we are going to step in to provide continuity,” said Drew Hazelton, Rescue's chief of operations.

Rescue won't be purchasing DiLuzio's equipment or property but instead will add the 30 New Hampshire employees to its current Vermont payroll of 80.

“We'll be there in the short term and, after the dust settles, we'll be meeting with all of those communities to find out what they want in the future,” Hazelton said.

The move comes a year after Brattleboro municipal government dropped its nearly 60-year contract with Rescue with little public notice or debate in favor of a proposed town fire department takeover.

Brattleboro leaders still haven't shared any of the facts or figures that caused them to approve the change, which they claimed would reap up to $700,000 in insurance revenue but actually could wind up costing taxpayers almost that much annually, according to a feasibility study commissioned after the switch.

Residents at this year's Annual Representative Town Meeting adopted nonbinding resolutions calling for a public decision-making process for both ambulance coverage and related American Rescue Plan Act spending. In response, local leaders said they would study the issues further this spring and summer before making a final decision this fall.

The New Hampshire situation could prove to be a cautionary tale about toying with an EMS system. DiLuzio began in 1951 and ran successfully for decades, only to see Cheshire County officials announce plans in 2021 for their own regional government program.

The Cheshire County government had hoped to purchase DiLuzio. When the deal fell through, regional leaders signed a transport contract with the area hospital that the family business had used to subsidize its 911-call operations. Without the agreement, the company has suffered, with the Internal Revenue Service recently sparking headlines when it tried to recoup a $648,965 tax debt.

“DiLuzio provided excellent service, but the changing landscape made it very difficult for them financially,” Hazelton said. “EMS is a challenging business model, as Brattleboro is going to find out.”

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