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Conn. city pays for EMS after 7 years of delinquency

The city wrote a $30,000 check for 2014-15 services; the agency is also seeking $190,000 in back payments through a lawsuit

Jean Falbo-Sosnovich
New Haven Register

DERBY, Conn. — Show me the money.

That’s exactly what Derby has done, paying Valley Emergency Medical Services for the first time in seven year for its paramedic services.

According to VEMS Executive Director Robert Pettinella, Derby sent him a check for $30,000 for the 2014-15 fiscal year. That amount is the annual contribution VEMS charges the Valley municipalities for its services. The check from the city’s Treasurer’s Office was dated July 28.

“This is the first time in seven years they have funded the regional paramedic program,” Pettinella said. “I was very happy to see that and called the mayor (Anita Dugatto) to thank her.”

While Ansonia, Oxford, Seymour and Shelton have all regularly paid their annual fees to VEMS, Derby stopped paying its share back in 2007. VEMS has since initiated a lawsuit against Derby, seeking some $190,000, plus interest, in back pay owed from 2007 to 2013.

Even though Derby has failed to pay up over the years, Pettinella said VEMS never stopped providing service to the city.

“The residents (of Derby) shouldn’t have to pay for bad decisions made by the (former Staffieri) administration,” Pettinella said.

Derby stopped making payments to VEMS on former Mayor Anthony Staffieri’s watch. He served as mayor from 2005 to 2013, when he was defeated by Dugatto.

Staffieri had said Derby’s cost were “disproportionate” compared with the number of VEMS calls here and in other, larger towns served by VEMS. He had cited emergency calls from 2010, saying VEMS serviced about 1,200 calls in Derby, compared to 3,000 calls in Shelton and 1,500 calls in Ansonia. Staffieri had said a “per capita formula” would be a more equitable solution.

Staffieri had also voiced frustration with VEMS when a new VEMS vehicle was damaged in an out-of-state accident in 2011 for a personal trip.

Pettinella had said he was prompted to pursue a lawsuit because “VEMS had reached a financial point where it can no longer continue to operate without the revenue,” and if another town decided to stop paying, the service would “fail.” He said VEMS’ revenue from billings alone does not cover operational costs to run the program.

Pettinella said Valley leaders committed in 2005 to pay their share to keep VEMS going. Pettinella noted that now Town Clerk Marc Garofalo was mayor of Derby at that time, and it wasn’t until Staffieri was elected that Derby stopped its funding to VEMS.

And while Derby has paid its share for 2014-15, Pettinella said the lawsuit will not be dropped.

“That money, if awarded to VEMS, will go back into reserves to build it back from years we pulled from it to fund the loss of Derby,” Pettinella said.

Shelton Attorney V. Michael Simko, representing VEMS, said the lawsuit is still “in the pleading stages,” and there is no trial date yet.

Simko said he plans to “depose” City Treasurer Keith McLiverty next month, “asking how/why 2014 is different than 2007 through 2013.”

McLiverty and Dugatto said they could not comment, due to the pending litigation. Attorney Fran Teodosio, representing Derby in the VEMS lawsuit, was not available for comment.

Simko, back when the lawsuit was initiated in February, had said he was hopeful the new Dugatto administration would resume paying VEMS, “as required by law for the public good.”

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©2014 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)

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