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Selectman Leavitt upset with questions about his integrity

June 09, 2011
OSSIPEE— "Last meeting I did not do a very good job at maintaining order," said Ossipee Selectman Chairman Morton Leavitt before reminding those on hand to discuss the town's ambulance contract that if anyone got out of order they would be removed from the meeting.

The June 6 selectmen's meeting was attended by Brian Johns of the town's contracted ambulance service (Ossipee Valley EMS), West Ossipee Commissioner Greg Howard (who logged allegations at the last meeting OVEMS was not complying with the contract), Center Ossipee's fire chief and commissioners, as well as other members of the public.

Leavitt first addressed this reporter's article published in the May 26 Carroll County Independent. Leavitt took issue with the sentence "There has been rumor since the request for proposals first went out that Leavitt somehow has a financial interest in Ossipee Valley EMS and should not have been involved in the vote to award the contract or in any discussions involving the company."

Leavitt said he felt it inappropriate to "publish unsubstantiated rumors" and said he has never had his integrity questioned in 73 years and "frankly don't like it." He said he doesn't think rumors should be printed and called it "yellow journalism."

Leavitt was asked twice at the May 23 meeting if he has or has ever had any financial interest in Ossipee Valley EMS and denied that he has or had any financial or personal interest, a response that was also published in the same news article.

Center Ossipee Fire Commissioner Robert Freeman asked Leavitt why he became so upset then during the discussion of Howard's allegations, a response that might lead the average person to believe Leavitt had a personal involvement in the company.

Leavitt said he was upset that OVEMS is being "continuously challenged" when they are trying to do a good job and that questions about which vehicle is used to respond to a call "drives me up a wall."

The allegations of OVEMS not abiding to the terms of the contract are a result of Howard researching where their newest ambulance is at any given time and what ambulances are used to respond to calls in Ossipee. Howard pulled the records of each call the provider's ambulance 27A5 responded to in Ossipee and in surrounding towns. He found of the 195 calls OVEMS responded to during January through April, 31 were in other towns. Howard pointed out the contract states that the company's newest ambulance, 27A5, will remain ready to respond within the town of Ossipee. Johns told the meeting that he has met with all three selectmen since his company and the contract was topic of discussion at a selectmen's meeting and said he will work to keep 27A5 in Ossipee. "As a contractor, I will do all I can to be sure 27A5 is the primary ambulance," said Johns.

Howard said he is concerned as a private citizen with the service being provided and also on behalf of the West Ossipee precinct, and he felt it necessary to bring the concern forward to selectmen that a potential issue exists that should be addressed.

"We can't tell this company where they can and can't go as long as they provide proper care," said Selectman Harry Merrow.

Leavitt initially offered to "meet with anyone who has concerns" about any past or present business dealings with OVEMS then decided to tell the group about his past business dealings in order to have the information on record.

He said 18 years ago Randy Hayford, who was the son of a man he grew up with, came to Leavitt and his wife with a business idea. Hayford had experience in the field of emergency medical care, said Leavitt, so he and his wife decided to commit funding to help Hayford start Medstar EMS. "He did a great job…it was very successful," said Leavitt.

In 1996, Leavitt bought the "former Kirkwood property" on Route 16 in West Ossipee which now is the site of a golf driving range and miniature golf course. He said when he bought it, there was a house on the property and despite screening and fencing being put in place, the house was still getting hit by golf balls and he decided to have the house moved. At the same time, Medstar had run out of room to adequately house the vehicles and staff and needed more room. Leavitt said the decision was made to move the house off the driving range property and onto a piece of property on Route 41 in West Ossipee. This became Medstar's base and with Hayford's mom's co-signature and loan guarantee, Leavitt held the note from January 2000 to December 31, 2009. Leavitt said that Patricia Hayford sold her house on Ossipee Lake to guarantee the property and "escrowed ample funds" to secure the loan. The property transferred from Leavitt to Patricia Hayford in December 2009.

Leavitt was elected to the Ossipee selectmen's board in March 2009. Medstar notified the five towns it was contracted to cover that they were going out of business and would no longer be providing emergency medical services. Lifestar, doing business as Ossipee Valley EMS, was formed September 1, 2010, according to Johns, and stepped in to complete the 2010 year in all of the five towns except Freedom. Then, after a competitive bidding process, Ossipee Valley EMS, currently housed at the former Medstar property, was awarded a 39-month contract to provide ambulance service to Ossipee.

Other meeting news

In an effort to alleviate traffic jams at the town's transfer station, selectmen are asking anyone using the facility to sort their recyclables prior to arriving at the facility.

Selectmen are considering how to dispose of two police cruisers that have been replaced with new ones. Public Works Director Brad Harriman asked if his department could have one of them. Historically, selectmen have either put town vehicles out for public bid or have given them to departments that have a need for them. Conservation commission member Kevin Houle suggested the board give one of the cruisers to the land use boards for use when they go to trainings, meetings, or do property inspections. Selectmen took both ideas under consideration for decision at their next meeting.

Following the selectmen's meeting, the board met with commissioners and fire chiefs from the town's fire precincts and members of the public to discuss the preparation of the town-wide survey that will ask respondents if they want to merge the town's three fire precincts. Also in attendance was Andy Smith of University of New Hampshire Survey Center, who will be working with the town to create the survey and tally the results. Selectmen had been asked to work with an outside agency to create an unbiased survey.

AJ Coleman
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Varney Smith
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