MONMOUTH — The town’s three-decade relationship with Monmouth Rescue Association has come to an end.

The town’s contract with the non-profit association, which has been in place since it was formed 34 years ago, expired Monday evening. Beginning today, calls for medical help in Monmouth will be answered by Winthrop Ambulance Service. Though it means that ambulances will now be responding from Winthrop instead of Monmouth, the change will have no impact on how people call for help. Those who need an ambulance should still call 911. Both Winthrop Ambulance and Monmouth Rescue are dispatched by the Winthrop communications center based at that town’s police department.

Winthrop Ambulance Chief John Dovinsky said last week that his service was ready to take over. Dovinsky said he had filed the proper paperwork with Maine Emergency Medical Services, which oversees ambulance services, and was in the process of adding part-time staff to handle the additional call volume. Winthrop Ambulance will not need to add equipment or an extra truck, Dovinsky said.

“I think we’re in good shape,” he said.

Monmouth Rescue Association President Aaron Chase in November announced the rescue association was canceling its contract with Monmouth and Wales, the only communities for which it provides primary coverage, on Jan. 13. Chase said a reduction in the number of calls, coupled with pay reductions implemented to keep the service afloat, have made it difficult to attract paramedics and emergency medical technicians. The staffing shortages have made it increasingly difficult to answer calls for service in a timely manner.

The association, which handles about 500 calls each year, has typically relied on certified responders who live in the area to answer those calls.

Selectmen considered converting the private service into a municipal department, like the police or fire departments, which would have more than doubled the cost of the $50,000 contract approved for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The board, which also considered contracting service through the Gardiner Fire and Rescue, ultimately opted to sign a $30,000 contract with Winthrop.

Chase did not return a call last week seeking comment, but Monmouth Rescue Chief Chris Duke on Monday evening posted a message on the Monmouth Fire Department’s Facebook page announcing the association’s end of service. Duke thanked agencies that have cooperated with the rescue over the years, including firefighters in Wales and Monmouth and Monmouth police.

“It has been a pleasure to serve along side of you,” Duke wrote.

He also thanked those who have volunteered and worked for Monmouth Rescue.

“There is no more noble cause than the service to others in need,” Duke wrote. “The memory of your service and sacrifices will speak for you for many years to come.”

Town Manager Curtis Lunt echoed Duke’s sentiments.

“We owe a big thank you to the fine members of the Monmouth Rescue Association who provided wonderful service for many years,” Lunt said.

Dovinsky, who lives in Monmouth, has said his department, which has a mutual aid agreement with Monmouth, typically answers about 20 calls in Monmouth each year. In 2013, that number jumped to about 50. That includes instances when Winthrop provided a paramedic to answer a call with a Monmouth emergency medical technician driving a Monmouth ambulance.

Dovinsky said his department typically has 40 employees, half of whom are paramedics. The service, which covers Winthrop, Wayne, Readfield, Mount Vernon, Fayette and Manchester, handles about 850 calls every year. About 40 percent of those calls occur outside of Winthrop.

Lunt expects residents to notice no changes in service.

“I am also confident that Winthrop Ambulance Service will provide the responsive, quality emergency medical service our residents need,” Lunt said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642 [email protected]