The town of Richmond plans to rejoin neighboring Gardiner’s emergency service after the ambulance service company it had used since 2009 didn’t submit a bid for a new contract.

Richmond was a member community of the city of Gardiner’s ambulance services for decades before it switched to North East Mobile Health Services seven years ago to save money.

Gardiner’s ambulance service would cost Richmond around $14,000 for the first year, but bills for the eight other communities in the service would decrease because of new revenue from serving patients in Richmond and the service fee charged to the town.

Spending the additional money for Gardiner’s service is subject to Richmond residents’ approval because town officials had expected North East, which didn’t charge the town in recent years, to renew the contract.

Gardiner has made attempts to bring Richmond back to its service, even offering in 2013 to match North East’s offer of free service. At the time, Richmond already had agreed to stay with North East for the next two years despite not having an active contract.

Richmond considered dropping North East again last year after the company informed town officials it no longer would station an ambulance in Dresden, as required by the contract. North East, headquartered in Scarborough, had said it planned to serve Richmond from its base in Topsham after the town of Dresden switched from North East’s ambulance service to Gardiner’s, although the company ended up agreeing to keep an ambulance at Richmond’s fire station.

The chairman of the Richmond Board of Selectmen, which voted unanimously Wednesday night to select Gardiner’s one-year offer, said because North East didn’t respond to the town’s inquiry about renewing the contract before its Town Meeting in June, voters didn’t approve spending any money for an ambulance service this year.

“The sentiment of the select board last night was that even though we liked and received good service from North East, we did not end up with a very good business relationship with North East,” board Chairman Peter Warner said.

Representatives from North East didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The special town meeting to approve the funding, along with giving the board permission to enter into multi-year contracts, is scheduled for Aug. 19. The town also plans to hold a public hearing that evening about whether to put a weight restriction on Weeks Road.

Even with the increased spending for ambulance service, the tax rate in Richmond still is expected to drop even more than the town had anticipated at the Town Meeting in June, Warner said. That’s because there was an unexpected drop in school costs and some increased revenue, he said.

The tax rate probably will drop from $19.30 per $1,000 of assessed value to less than $19, Warner said.

The eight other communities that are members of Gardiner’s ambulance service — Chelsea, Dresden, Gardiner, Farmingdale, Litchfield, Pittston, Randolph and West Gardiner — had expected to see their bills increase 32 percent from last year. With the additional revenue from Richmond, their bills would increase only by 16 percent, according to Gardiner City Manager Scott Morelli. The costs for the communities are increasing because the service plans to buy a new ambulance and revenue projections were expected to be about $75,000 short this year.

Morelli said the city would be interested in entering a multi-year contract with Richmond next year. The city offered to provide ambulance service to Richmond for $18,588 for one year, but because North East will keep providing an ambulance until October, Gardiner reduced the cost to $13,941.

Although the city had offered to provide free service to Richmond two years ago, the ambulance committee, made up of representatives from the eight current communities, voted to offer Richmond the same deal it made with other towns this year.

Tina Gowell, chairwoman of the committee and Litchfield’s deputy chief of rescue, said the committee made one exception in the past and didn’t want to set a precedent.

“We are not going to do that again, because it hurts the other towns that have been dedicated to Gardiner,” she said.

Morelli said the city doesn’t expect any problems with providing service to a ninth community, but its fire chief will monitor it. Back in 2009, the city served all the same nine communities with the same staffing levels, he said.

“We believe that’s certainly within our capabilities,” Morelli said.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig


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