December 12, 2013

Monmouth chooses Winthrop for ambulance service

The board’s vote, split 3-2, elicited a vocal response from residents and prompted dissenting voter Selectman Douglas Ludewig to storm out of the meeting.

By Craig Crosby
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

“I think on a consistent basis Winthrop could offer better response times,” he said.

The board devoted much of its discussion to Monmouth Rescue Association’s proposal, which called for the town to double its contribution to $100,000. Chase said the association’s board had agreed to turn all of its assets over to the town, including a modest amount of money in the bank, should the town decide to create a town-run service.

But, Sanborn suggested, those assets, which include two ambulances that are 12 and 17 years old, also are liabilities. Chase suggested a used ambulance would cost about $60,000. Town Manager Curtis Lunt said the town could lease an ambulance for about $30,000 per year. Sanborn also expressed concern about the hidden costs, such as purchasing equipment to outfit the ambulances.

“We’re putting more of a burden on taxpayers,” Sanborn said. “I want to make an educated decision. My biggest concern is the vehicles. We’re dealing with some really old vehicles right now.”

Chase’s proposal, which factored in only per diem employees, did not include benefits for full-time employees. McDonald said the service would need at least one full-time employee to run the service. He said state guidelines require benefits to be provided to anyone who works more than 30 hours per week, pushing the town’s estimated cost of running the service from $100,000 to at least $120,000.

If the town were to take over the rescue service, McDonald said it would require Wales to increase its spending at least three-fold. The neighboring community spends $10,000, which is double what it spent last year, but based on a contract that matches Monmouth’s per-capita spending of $19.50, Wales would be required to spend $30,000.

“That would not be acceptable,” said Wales Selectman Eric Gagnon, who attended the meeting. He said his town would pay no more than $16,000.

Chase said Wales can have free service through Lewiston-based United Ambulance Service, but has stuck with Monmouth Rescue for its superior response. He said the $10,000 contract, coupled with $40,000 in average yearly revenue from calls in Wales, represent a significant portion of the association’s funding.

“I don’t know if you realize the importance Wales plays in this,” Chase said.

The anticipated decision to scuttle Monmouth Rescue Association will have an impact other neighboring communities as well. The rescue provides mutual aid coverage to Leeds for Turner Rescue and also has aid agreements with Winthrop and United.

Before the vote, Ludewig urged the board to take its time and give residents a chance to offer their input. He recognized the board’s authority to decide to contract with Winthrop or Gardiner, but said doing so without greater deliberation would be wrong.

“It would be unfortunate after 34 years to dump Monmouth Rescue,” Ludewig said. “We need to let the voters decide.”

Craig Crosby —
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