The consultant hired by the city of Gardiner to review the finances of its regional ambulance and rescue service is expected to deliver findings and recommendations Wednesday night to the City Council.
The city hired New Hampshire-based Municipal Resources Inc. late last month after discovering that revenue from the emergency service provided to residents of Gardiner and six surrounding towns were lower than expected.
The contractor hired by the firm, Justin Van Etten, will present his report on the billing practices of the service to councilors at their 7 p.m. meeting at Gardiner City Hall.
City staff discovered the revenue discrepancies last month while developing a restructuring proposal for the public safety departments to save costs for all communities in the service. In February, City Manager Scott Morelli withdrew a previous proposal to merge the city’s fire and police chief roles and create a joint deputy fire chief and code enforcement officer position after some councilors opposed the plan because of the reduced code officer role.
Morelli encouraged town officials and residents of the other six towns that are part of the service — Chelsea, Farmingdale, Litchfield, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner — to attend Wednesday’s meeting.
He said the communities all have a stake in the findings because not only do they receive ambulance service, but the service also helps fund the city’s full-time Fire Department, the only one in the area.
The city is exploring ways to cut costs for its emergency medical service to prevent the partner communities from leaving for private ambulance services. Morrelli said he probably will present an alternative to his original public safety consolidation plan sometime during the budget-making process this spring after moving forward with changes recommended by the consultant.
The consulting firm’s president, Don Jutton, will join Van Etten, who is the chairman and owner of Stewart’s Ambulance Service in New Hampshire, to present the findings to City Council and answer questions.
Besides trying to lower its ambulance service costs to prevent partner communities from leaving, the city is eager to find savings because it is expecting to face a budget shortfall of $600,000 for the fiscal year that begins in July.
Also on the meeting agenda is a presentation about a proposed new comprehensive plan from Councilor Patricia Hart, chairwoman of the Comprehensive Plan Committee.
The committee finalized the plan after holding an informal public hearing on the plan last month to give residents a chance to comment on the draft and ask questions.
The committee and the Planning Board will hold a joint public hearing on the plan in the first week of May, Hart said. Sometime after that, the City Council expects to review the plan and hold a public hearing before sending it to the state for final approval.
The nearly 200-page document would be used to guide city officials’ planning decisions. It’s the result of more than two years of community input about what people want the city to look like over the next decade.
The plan includes an overview of previous planning efforts, the makeup of the city and current zoning maps, along with overarching goals, policy suggestions and implementation strategies.
One of the major zoning changes suggested by the plan is creating a mixed-use zone to better transition the industrial, commercial nature of outer Brunswick Avenue with the residential neighborhoods farther north toward the downtown.
The plan can be viewed on the city’s website, at City Hall and at the Gardiner Public Library.