Mayor Nick Isgro listens to people voice their disdain for his proclamation declaring Oct. 14 to be Columbus Day on Oct. 1 at the City Council meeting in the Chace forum. Isgro vetoed a unanimous council vote approving spending $131,000 for two used ambulances on Friday. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

WATERVILLE — Mayor Nick Isgro has vetoed a unanimous vote the City Council took last week to buy two used ambulances for $131,000 with an eye toward enabling the fire department to transport patients to hospitals.

Isgro’s veto, dated Friday but released by the mayor’s office Tuesday, says a veto is needed to allow time for more information to be gathered and assessed by the council and public on the issue.

The fire department responds to calls for rescue, as does Delta Ambulance, but is not licensed to take patients to hospitals as Delta is.

Isgro’s veto says the council on Sept. 17 formed a committee to determine if an ambulance service would be appropriate for the city. The committee met twice in closed session, presented the plan to buy the ambulances to the council Oct. 15, less than a month after first reviewing such a plan, and the council approved it Oct. 15, according to the veto.

“Considering the millions of dollars that will ultimately be spent over the life of a transport service and the considerable risk of taking on such a service,” the veto says, “it would have been reasonable to believe that such a committee would take at a minimum several months to research the proposal and to have a nonbiased third party review both the costs and revenue projections before presenting a proposal to the City Council.”

Councilor Jay Coelho, D-Ward 5, a member of the study committee, said Tuesday in response to the veto that he thinks Isgro is making a political issue out of the ambulance matter.

“He’s just playing politics, and I get it,” Coelho said. “There’s more information that needs to come out. The committee is not done. The committee has so much work to do. This is about backing Delta, not forming a full-blown ambulance service.”

Councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, and Meg Smith, D-Ward 3, also are members of the fire department study committee. Ex-officio members, or those who do not vote, are fire Chief Shawn Esler, City Manager Michael Roy and fire Lt. Ryan Cote.

Jay Coelho, pictured here speaking with residents at a city council meeting on April 3, 2018, responded to Mayor Nick Isgro’s veto of a unanimous council vote approving the purchase of two used ambulances as “playing politics” on Tuesday. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

Coelho said Tuesday that the city is spending a lot of city resources treating patients at a scene until Delta arrives.

“For resident safety, for resident care, it makes sense for us to be able to transport them in times of need,” he said.

The council voted 6-0 to purchase the two ambulances. The funds would come from money the city borrowed to buy a fire tower truck, as the cost of that truck came in lower than expected, according to Esler. Isgro notes in his veto that the council had to take only one vote on the ambulance purchase instead of two, because the money already had been approved, but the responsible thing to do is to hold a second vote since the money was not initially intended for the ambulances.

Coelho added that if Isgro can get councilors to change their minds about their vote, they will have to explain to the public why they changed.

Isgro says in his veto that Esler should be commended for pursuing all avenues to help increase revenue and provide the best service possible, but his job as mayor “is to make decisions on verifiable facts, regardless of who the messenger is.”

The veto says Isgro is looking at possibly holding a special meeting prior to Nov. 6 so that he, councilors, Esler and others can hold a public discussion about the ambulance service issue.

Meanwhile, the council on Nov. 6 will consider overriding Isgro’s veto. An override requires that five of six councilors approve overriding, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois and Deputy clerk Sarah Cross.

Also at the Oct. 15 council meeting, resident Bob Vear criticized Mayor Isgro for a tweet he posted about indigenous peoples. Isgro tried to shut him down when his three minutes were up, Vear yelled at Isgro and said he was not going to leave, and Isgro pounded his gavel, declared the meeting adjourned and left. Councilors remained seated, allowed Vear to finish his speech and stayed while others also walked to the podium to speak.

Isgro later claimed the council conspired with Vear, allowing Vear to attack him verbally.

 

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