Use of ARPA funds can only be seen as evidence of its bad faith

BRATTLEBORO — Representative Town Meeting approved a motion in 2023, calling on the Selectboard to allocate American Rescue Plan Act funds only after engaging with the public as to its preferences for use of those funds.

In Selectboard meetings before and after, members of the public asked - really, begged - the board not to obligate ARPA funds until the public had been given a meaningful chance to register its priorities, and we were given assurances that such a public process would occur before drawing on these funds.

The Selectboard's Sept. 19 vote to take 51% of the ARPA balance for the EMS startup, without promised public deliberation, can only be seen as evidence of its bad faith.

At its 2022 meeting, Annual Representative Town Meeting approved a budget that included a payment of $285,600 to Rescue for EMS services - services that no one disputes provided quality patient care.

It should also be noted that in FY23, when Brattleboro would have paid Rescue $285,600, the Town anticipated collecting $48,000 in dispatch fees from Rescue, meaning the net cost of EMS was anticipated to be less than $238,000.

The Selectboard's decision to go forward with a town EMS is much more expensive and much more complicated than what we would have experienced had the existing relationship with Rescue continued. (It should be noted that the costs for the 2023 Rescue proposal are higher only because of the Selectboard's 2022 decision to end its relationship with Rescue.)

This unnecessary mess reflects badly on the members of the Selectboard in office in April 2022, three of whom continue to serve. The consequences of their adoption of a Fire-EMS program will reflect on this Selectboard.

The writer is a Brattleboro Town Meeting member, representing District 3.

This Voices Letters from readers was submitted to The Commons.