Residents at the annual Town Meeting voted to switch ambulance services, leaving Gardiner Ambulance and following the Selectmen’s recommendation to go with Wiscasset Ambulance instead.

The vote, which First Selectman Dale Hinote said was fairly close, came after debate by residents and presentations from both Wiscasset Ambulance officials and Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson.

Hinote said the main difference between the cost of the two services is Wiscasset Ambulance won’t charge Dresden for fees it cannot collect from Dresden residents who use the service but who don’t pay, or whose insurance doesn’t pay, the fees for the service.

“Our main concern with Gardiner was the large amount of uncollectibles,” Hinote said Sunday. “We don’t have any sort of collection agency, and we can’t place liens on property for medical bills. So we could end up spending a lot.”

He said over the last three years the bill for services provided by Gardiner Ambulance to Dresden residents who didn’t pay, themselves or through their insurance, for ambulance services has reached $43,000.

He said Wiscasset Ambulance doesn’t plan to seek payment, from the town, for debts from Dresden residents deemed uncollectible.

Hinote said some residents at Saturday’s meeting argued Gardiner may offer better service, because it has a higher percentage of paramedics on its ambulance crews.

Hinote said the charges in the town’s new contract with Wiscasset Ambulance are in the same ballpark as the fees charged by Gardiner, other than the aforementioned issue of uncollectible debt.

Residents authorized Selectmen to enter into a three-year contract with Wiscasset Ambulance, at a cost of $6,000 the first year, $6,500 the second, and $7,000 the third, final year.

About 100 residents attended the two-hour-long meeting at Pownalborough Hall, approving every warrant item put before them, according to Hinote.

Appropriations for the town budget totaled $850,000, an increase of $141,000 over the current year, according to the warrant for the meeting.

Proposed spending on roads is up substantially, with Selectmen and the Budget Committee recommending $419,000, up by $106,000 from the current year.

Hinote said town officials plan to have dirt roads in town paved, more money was needed for sand and salt because budgets for those winter-road materials have been underfunded in the past, and the town is also providing some matching money for an $83,000 grant to do culvert work in Dresden.

Spending on sand and salt more than doubled, with $39,000 approved by residents for sand, up from $15,000, and $36,000 approved for salt, also up from $15,000.

Voters agreed to take $80,000 from surplus to reduce the amount of money that will need to come from taxpayers to fund the budget. Hinote said information needed to set the tax rate is still being collected but speculated there will probably be a modest increase in the property tax rate.

On Tuesday voters elected town officials.

Incumbent Third Selectman Allan Moeller was re-elected, with 127 votes to challenger Michael Nylen’s 91.

Town Clerk Patricia Theriault was re-elected, with 125 votes, but declined the appointment and instead resigned because, Hinote said, she’s leaving for a another job. So Shirley Storkson, the second highest vote-getter, with 106, was appointed town clerk instead.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj