HALLOWELL — Councilors said they are leaning toward staying with the city of Augusta for emergency medical services instead of switching to a private service after hearing from both parties Monday night.

Councilors said the uncertainty of changes in emergency service and dispatching, as well as the potential costs of Hallowell’s fire department providing additional services swayed them toward not changing providers.

Hallowell City Council’s Finance Committee recommended switching from Augusta’s service to Delta Ambulance to save around $27,000.

Hallowell Police Chief Eric Nason and Fire Chief Michael Grant both spoke in favor of continuing the relationship with Augusta.

“I just think it will come with some growing pains,” Grant said of the switch. “And I just don’t want those growing pains to cost someone a life.”

Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo, Battalion Chief John Bennett of the Augusta Fire Department and Police Chief Robert Gregoire spoke on behalf of the city. For Delta Ambulance, Executive Director Timothy Beals and Director of Community Relations Bill McKenna spoke before the council.

Both parties said the difference in service would be in situations that involved rescue work, like an ice or water rescue or extricating someone from a vehicle.

Grant said the Hallowell Fire Department would need to step up and take on those types of duties if the city switched to Delta Ambulance.

That would mean additional costs for more equipment and training, he said.

Councilor Lisa Harvey-McPherson asked for totals of any additional costs, so the council could compare them more accurately.

Starn said the Finance Committee would review the potential costs.

Grant said he looks at the cost the cost of staying with Augusta as $9 per resident, the service fee the city charges.

He said he would be willing to pay the $45 for his family of five to have the quicker and more comprehensive service.

Mayor Charlotte Warren said Grant’s comments about how he would be willing to pay for his own family made sense, because she thinks the councilors would all make the same decision.

She said it hurts to think they would be making decisions about the health of residents based on money.

Bridgeo said switching to Delta Ambulance wouldn’t affect mutual aid fire responses, but it would mean Hallowell wouldn’t be able to rely on the integrated rescues from fire department personnel.

“That is a little bit heavy-handed to me, I have to admit,” City Council Mark Sullivan said. “But I understand where they’re coming from.”

Sullivan said he’s been skeptical of switching to Delta Ambulance, and the meeting Monday night reinforced those feelings.

Augusta charges Hallowell $9 per resident and reimbursement for unpaid bills from responses in Hallowell. That totaled $26,473 this year

Hallowell budgeted $4,000 for the expected cost of uncollectibles this year.

Delta Ambulance is offering their services at no cost.

The majority of the councilors said they would be willing to pay the $9 per resident service fee for a shorter response time and more resources.

The one sticking point for some councilors is the $4,000 the city pays Augusta for uncollectibles.

Harvey-McPherson said she doesn’t think Hallowell should have to pay for Augusta not collecting the bills.

The council also passed the first reading a its $2.15 million budget.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at the council’s July 8 meeting.

The proposed budget, including the school and county, will increase the tax rate by $1.87 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means a tax bill hike of $187 for a property assessed at $100,000.

The Regional School Unit 2 budget’s portion causes the tax rate to increase $1.80 per $1,000 of assesed value for Hallowell

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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