PALERMO — Last May, the volunteer fire department was low on members. Now, it’s the volunteer rescue unit.

Fire Chief Dean Willoughby told selectmen Thursday night that rescue has three members — two of whom live out of town, and one who doesn’t drive.

As a result, in a medical emergency people usually have to use Delta Ambulance, which is based in Waterville and Augusta, said Willoughby and Town Clerk Sheila McCarty.

McCarty said that during a recent situation in her neighborhood, it took Delta 45 minutes to arrive at the scene.

Willoughby said that following publicity last spring, several new volunteer firefighters signed up and membership is “not too bad right now.”

However, he said, many of the members are older, and so younger people, men and women, are especially welcome.

The fire chief was at Thursday’s selectmen’s meeting to tell the board that the department is likely to reject the offer of mileage compensation for fire calls.

Selectmen voted at their Dec. 29 meeting to begin reimbursing firefighters at the state mileage rate. Willoughby is concerned there will be more paperwork and perhaps complications with state regulations if firefighters are compensated.

A small-town department, he said, has two choices: to stay as an independent volunteer department or to become a municipal fire department, answerable to the selectmen or town manager. Willoughby thinks Palermo firefighters would rather remain volunteers.

The issue is likely to be considered when the department meets next week, Willoughby said.

The question of compensation for rescue volunteers was on Thursday’s agenda as well, but was not discussed. Board Chairman Sophia Glidden said rescue members asked to be reimbursed for mileage only if firefighters are.

Selectmen also discussed a proposal to get cable service in Palermo, even though proponent Richard Reitchel was not there.

Selectman Paul Cowing talked with a Time Warner representative who said the company policy is usually to provide service along roads with at least 20, and preferably 25 or more, houses per mile.

In Palermo, according to an outdated map, most residents — including Reitchel — would not be served. Cowing said he told the company representative that population had grown in recent years.

But the company will not proceed further without a franchise agreement with the town, Cowing said.

Entering into an agreement will require amending or repealing Palermo’s cable TV ordinance, which requires a company operating anywhere in town to serve all residents who want service within three years.

After the meeting, selectmen continued work on the draft warrant for the Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10, Town Meeting.


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