AYER — In 2001, Dr. Terrence Hack treated then-officer William Blankenburg of the Police Department, after he had heart attack while on duty.
To date, Hack hasn’t received payment for that service, and he came before the Board of Selectmen on March 6 seeking a resolution.
The board voted to support an article to pay the bill at the Annual Town Meeting if another measure can’t be found before then.
Prior to that, Hack’s attorney, Patricia Montminy, outlined a lengthy case that centered on the selectmen ruling Blankenburg eligible for benefits in 2002 after his private and processional carriers rejected his claim for $5,941 in bills from Hack’s practice, Primary Care Cardiology, on Groton Road.
What ensued was a flurry of correspondence with police Chief Richard Rizzo and former town administrator Anita Scheipers, said Montminy, but no payment was made.
After 26 years in Ayer, Hack said he’s never seen the like.
“I’ve never had to go to this extent to get a bill,” he said. “I’m embarrassed to be here, I’m embarrassed for Chief Rizzo, and I’m embarrassed for the Board of Selectmen. This isn’t the way honest, honorable people conduct business.”
Town administrator Shaun Suhoski listed lengthy correspondences with Montminy as proof the town is working on the case, but conceded that there’s some confusion.
Standard state police and firefighter disability coverage didn’t cover Blankenburg because benefit eligibility required emergency duty 48 hours prior to the incident, said Suhoski. Though that rule is no longer in place, he said it was when Blankenburg made the claim.
The private insurance carrier ruled that Blankenburg was ineligible after the board voted that he was eligible for benefits through the town. Despite the town’s vote, its insurance carrier ruled that he wasn’t eligible, leaving the town responsible, said Suhoski.
Blankenburg wasn’t present at the meeting.
Selectman Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan was on the board that approved Blankenburg for benefits. He said the officer is a Vietnam veteran, and the town is trying to coordinate benefits, which has been difficult and time-consuming.
“It hasn’t been a lack of honor on the Board of Selectmen’s part or Chief Rizzo’s. It’s been a lack of communication,” he said. “I think we can rectify that tonight.”
Sullivan motioned for the board to put an article to cover the bills on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.
Selectman Pauline Conley amended that figure to $9,130. She said 1 percent interest per month on the bill would cover Montminy’s fees.
Conley’s amendment was supported by selectmen Gary Luca and Frank Maxant.
“I’ll support the article, but at the lower amount,” said Sullivan. “I’ll make that clear at Town Meeting.”
The board also faced criticism from several citizens in the audience.
“I can’t believe we’re going through all this rhetoric,” said resident James Lucchesi. “You have a situation where you owe this money and have owed it for a long time. This gentleman has done a lot for this town. Money should be found, and the paperwork should be worked out later.”
Maxant said the board was obligated to work under the laws.