Gardiner is competing with a private ambulance service provider for a contract with Richmond in hopes of saving money for the city and surrounding communities it serves.

However, the chief of the company serving Richmond said his people thought they had locked up the contract last July and have been working in good faith until negotiations are set.

Richmond Town Manager Marian Anderson said the Board of Selectmen previously discussed awarding the contract to North East Mobile Health Services, and the company only brought up the contract issue when Gardiner made its offer two weeks ago.

“At this time, we have presentations by two services, and we haven’t really entered in negotiations in earnest with either one,” she said.

The Richmond Board of Selectmen probably will make its decision at its meeting tonight, according to Chairman Clarence Cummins.

Anderson said the negotiations with North East have centered around agreeing to an acceptable response time.

Kevin McGinnis, chief of North East, said the company has been trying to finalize a three-year contract since the board accepted the proposal last year.

Minutes for a Richmond Board of Selectmen meeting last May showed the board voted 2-1 to award the contract to North East, pending review by legal counsel.

McGinnis said the company doesn’t have any issue continuing to provide ambulance service to Richmond, but not having a contract makes planning difficult.

North East has a base in Dresden that serves Richmond, Dresden, Bowdoinham and Woolwich. It also has bases in Rockport, Scarborough, Biddeford and Sanford, according to McGinnis. McGinnis said losing Richmond, which represents about a third to a half of that network’s revenue, would be detrimental to the ambulance services in the other towns.

Richmond switched from Gardiner to North East in 2008 to save money. Gardiner previously sent unpaid service bills to Richmond, but North East offered to take care of the uncollectables.

Now both parties are offering the same deal — no service fees and no uncollectables, so Richmond won’t have to pay for either provider.

Gardiner plans to use the additional revenue from serving Richmond to lower the costs for all the other towns in the partnership — Chelsea, Farmingdale, Litchfield, Pittston and Randolph.

All the towns pay service fees and are responsible for unpaid bills. Service fees usually average $8,000 to $12,000 for most towns, which are charged by usage and per capita.

If Richmond joins, the towns won’t be responsible for the uncollected bills, saving each town about 40 to 50 percent on its total cost, according to projections compiled by city staff.

Gardiner Fire Chief Mike Minkowsky said the other communities agreed to the proposal in order to bring Richmond back into the partnership, even though Richmond will be the only one with free service.

Minkowsky said current staffing in Gardiner would be able to handle the additional calls from Richmond.

He said this proposal is part of recent changes by Gardiner to improve the department’s efficiency. For example, the department recently renegotiated its billing service contract to save 2 percent of total revenue, coming out to around $15,000.

Last year the communities in the partnership saved an average 16.5 percent on their ambulance service bills compared to the year before, according to Minkowsky.

He said Gardiner hopes to reduce the costs for other comunities down to negligible amounts.

“Every thousand dollars makes a huge difference in our operational costs and keeps things solvent,” Minkowsky said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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