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By Geoff Wetime, The Packet Group
   HIGHTSTOWN — The Borough Council has heard a plea from Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried to maintain a deal under which the township provides emergency medical services for a fee Hightstown officials have said they can no longer afford.
   The council has been looking at ways to reduce a $6.3 million proposed municipal budget, which carries a projected increase in the municipal tax hike of 12.4 cents. One option is using a less-expensive EMS provider beginning next month when the contract with Robbinsville expires. That deal, begun in 2007, carries a $94,000 annual cost for the borough.
   Robbinsville, which staffs an ambulance located in the borough with two paid EMTs contracted through Trenton-based Capital Health, provides coverage three nights and seven days a week. Hightstown volunteers handle calls four nights a week.
   The new EMS plan, which borough officials have said will save about $30,000 for the remaining six months of this year, and then $60,000 next year, would switch coverage to Cranbury, with Hightstown volunteers handling all weeknight and weekend calls.
   Mayor Fried recently said losing the annual deal with Hightstown would have little impact on the township’s budget because most of that revenue is used to manage the ambulance service for the borough. He also told The Messenger-Press last week that while most of the billing coming from Robbinsville gets paid, a large amount of the services from Hightstown does not get paid.
   Despite that, he was in attendance at Hightstown Borough Council’s May 17 meeting to implore the council to consider maintaining the contract, saying the partnership has worked extremely well for both towns.
   ”When you really break it down into perspective, it’s about $7 per year per resident to have an ambulance in your town full time and have backup full time,” he said.
   He also said last week that using Cranbury could leave Hightstown with no back-up service at busy times.
   Mr. Fried told the Borough Council if Robbinsville could provide any other shared services to make up the $30,000 gap cited as savings it would do that, including public safety or other services on which the township could bid.
   Borough Council President Larry Quattrone encouraged council members to consider Mr. Fried’s comments as well as the alternative plan with Cranbury. He said they should come to a decision at the next council meeting.
Managing Editor Vic Monaco contributed to this story.