Mercer residents often are faced with longer response times to medical emergencies than their neighbors in surrounding towns that have medical emergency response teams or are closer to hospitals, spurring a proposal that the town start an emergency response team.

The $4,800 proposal will be considered Saturday at Town Meeting as part of a $354,969 annual budget. The proposed budget, made up of $288,529 to come from taxes and $66,440 from surplus, is up about 3 percent from last year’s total budget of $343,102.

“It’s fairly cut and dry,” First Selectman Vern Worthen said of the entire budget. “Most of the increases are just day-to-day cost-of-living-type increases.”

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday at the Mercer Community Center. Elections will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at the community center. There are no contested races.

All three members of the Board of Selectmen support the emergency response team proposal, Worthen said, which was brought to the town by Rome resident Dana Knight, a licensed paramedic who started a rescue group in Rome about 20 years ago. The group now runs under the oversight of the Rome Fire Department.

“In this day and age, it’s just unacceptable that people would have to wait 20-plus minutes in an emergency situation,” said Knight, 41, who lives near the Mercer town line and is a paramedic in Rome. He said he has responded to several calls over the years in Rome at which a patient having a heart attack or other medical emergency might not have survived had they lived just a short distance away in Mercer.

“Mercer doesn’t have anything,” Knight said. “They don’t have a first responder service. They have no fire department. They wait for the ambulance out of Skowhegan.”

Mercer contracts with Norridgewock for fire coverage, but the department is not responsible for responding to medical calls, Knight said. As a result, a patient in a medical emergency may have to wait 20 minutes or more for an ambulance to come from Skowhegan.

“We only have a window of four to six minutes (after someone stops breathing) before brain death occurs,” Knight said. “CPR needs to be initiated within the first few minutes, and without early defibrillation the likelihood of survival decreases drastically.”

Knight said he would be the director of the emergency response team. He said he has worked with the Budget Committee to come up with the budget of $4,800, which would be enough to cover the training costs of three people and buy some supplies. Members would use their own vehicles.

Worthen said the response team funding would be an annual cost to the town but would be less than $4,800 a year after training is completed.

“Once we get the town members trained, they’ll be able to respond to medical emergencies, trauma, anything that happens in the town of Mercer,” Knight said. “It also opens (Mercer and surrounding towns) up to mutual-aid-type agreements. For instance, Mercer would be able to call on Smithfield, New Sharon or Rome to assist. It’s just a win-win situation.”

The medical response proposal is the last item in a 39-article warrant that residents will vote on at Saturday’s Town Meeting.

Other items that will be considered include a $1,200 raise for the town animal control officer and a $1,600 increase in cemetery costs.

The increased cost for animal control came at the request of the animal control officer and will be more in line with what other towns pay, Worthen said. The cemetery increase will cover maintenance costs for an expansion at the Village Cemetery where land was donated, he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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