By CAROL ROBIDOUX
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – A deal with neighboring towns to continue providing fire and ambulance services was struck last night, despite some discussion over the fairness of the fees being charged.
Derry EMS Director Chuck Hemeon fielded questions from several councilors about some of the contract renewal details for service to Chester and Auburn. Most came from councilors Kevin Coyle and Janet Fairbanks, who previously objected to the annual charges to both towns, which they feel are set too low.
“I've been of the opinion all along that Auburn and Chester should pay the same dollar amount we pay,” said Coyle, doing the math by dividing the number of residents in each town by the cost of services. “I understand it brings revenue, and I appreciate the revenue, but I want to look out for the people I represent, and I don't feel it's appropriate to charge our residents more than those of Chester and Auburn.”
Coyle said service per Derry resident breaks down to about $277 per resident, while Chester residents, by comparison, would be paying about $47 each for services.
Hemeon said that, as far as calculations go, there are a number of factors that go into the formula, which are based on a system outlined by the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Fairbanks said she felt low-balling the cost of services to neighboring towns undercut Derry's fire department.
“It's not a matter of generating revenue for the town. I think we're selling our fire department short, and I think we could get more revenue,” Fairbanks said.
Hemeon said when the matter came before the council in March, someone raised the point that neighboring towns would pay much more if forced to use a private provider.
Hemeon cited a comment made by Chester Fire Chief Richard Antoine, who said he looked into a private service as a contingency plan, and while cheaper service was available, Derry's emergency services were preferred.
“It's about the quality of service here in Derry,” Hemeon said.
The council vote was 5-2, with Coyle and Fairbanks voting against the contract deals.
The three-year contract will cost Chester and Auburn $47,250 for the first year, $49,612.50 for the second year and $52,093.25 for the third year, a 5 percent increase over the last contract, generating $203,235 in revenue for Derry.