BINGHAM — Voters at the annual Town Meeting on Monday night agreed to fully fund the Upper Kennebec Valley Ambulance Service for the coming year, in spite of recent financial problems and criminal charges against a former service coordinator.

The vote was 38-2 to keep higher trained paramedics aboard ambulance crews rather than staffing with basic and intermediate emergency medical technicians.

“After a lot of discussion they approved $88,500, which is less than they originally requested,” Bingham First Selectman Steven Steward said Tuesday.

The ambulance service, which provides emergency response care to Bingham, Moscow, Caratunk, West Forks, The Forks and Pleasant Ridge plantations and the surrounding unorganized territories, had requested $94,459 from Bingham voters. Last year the town of Bingham raised $38,130 for the service. The town this year had proposed $54,000 as Bingham’s share in the service.

Donna Dickstein, of Caratunk, the president of the ambulance service’s board of directors, said Tuesday that Bingham voters passed up the option of raising $77,500 for emergency medical technicians.

“They overwhelmingly voted to pay the extra money and keep the paramedics — they felt very strongly about that,” Dickstein said. “The $54,000 proposed by the town wouldn’t have covered what the ambulance needed to keep running at all.”

Dickstein said she and Tim Pomelow, of Solon, acting director of the ambulance service, talked Monday morning about dollar amounts to take to Bingham voters at the Town Meeting. She said the ambulance service previously had a coordinator and an assistant coordinator, but reduced that to just one person — Pomelow — to cut proposed spending.

“I was very pleased — the town really was very supportive,” she said. “I was very impressed that they decided to go with the higher level. They were willing to pay the extra money and we’re working hard to make changes to improve the service.”

Other ambulance service communities will vote on funding at town meetings in the coming days and weeks.

In recent years the service has had fewer calls but seen more patients without insurance, according to the service’s records. With that, the cost of fuel, supplies and payroll has increased, all resulting in less income and the need for increased contributions.

Steward said the additional money to be taken from taxation increases Bingham’s budget for the coming year by about 6 percent. He said the tax rate is now expected to rise from $18.10 for every $1,000 in property valuation to about $18.70.

Steward said $248,516 in carry-over and surplus accounts also will be put in to round out this year’s budget.

The rest of the Town Meeting articles passed as written Monday night.

Monday’s vote for the ambulance service comes after Laurie Laweryson, 50, of North Anson, the service’s former co-coordinator, was charged with stealing money from the service and fired by the board of directors.

Laweryson was summoned on a charge of class C theft for allegedly using the service’s gas card to buy about $2,000 worth of fuel for her personal use, according to Maine State Police Trooper Chris Crawford. Assistant District Attorney Brent Davis in Skowhegan said paperwork has yet to be filed on the case.

At special town meetings in January Laweryson convinced service communities to come up with $30,000 extra because she said the ambulance service did not have enough money to operate until March, when the communities approve their annual budgets.

Laweryson did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

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