WATERVILLE — City councilors on Tuesday voted 6-0 to postpone to Dec. 3 a decision about whether to override Mayor Nick Isgro’s veto of a vote the council took Oct. 15 to buy two used ambulances for the fire department.

New Ward 6 Councilor Claude Francke made a motion to postpone, saying he wanted a little more time to think about the matter before voting. His motion was seconded by Councilor Flavia Oliveira, D-Ward 2, who also is a new councilor.

Mayor Nick Isgro said the extra time would allow for a larger, broader discussion about the ambulance proposal and it is important the public be given a proper amount of information about the same.

Thomas R. W. Longstaff heads back to his seat Tuesday after thanking the city of Waterville for dedicating the annual report to him. He is a former state representative, councilor, co-chairman of the charter commission and first responder. He also serves on the boards of directors of Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, Kennebec Behavioral Health and other panels and is a member of the Waterville Rotary Club. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

Meanwhile, Waterville fire Chief Shawn Esler for the first time made a public presentation on his ambulance proposal, which was introduced last month by councilors Mike Morris, D-Ward 1, and Jay Coelho, D-Ward 5. Esler said he believes a problem exists in the city with ambulance delays and availability.

Esler acknowledged he “missed the mark” previously by not explaining that the plan is for the fire department to serve as backup for Delta Ambulance Service, which for many years has transported patients to hospitals, and not to replace Delta. The fire department is not now licensed to take people to hospitals, but Delta is, and always has a paramedic on board.

“This is not to take over primary EMS in the city of Waterville,” Esler said.

He said he is not proposing a primary transport service but back up for Delta in three primary instances: when emergency calls come in and Delta is not available, when patient transfers between facilities are needed but Delta is not available and to have ambulances available during mass gatherings or events where ambulances may be needed.

Having ambulances, Esler said, would be an advantage in the event of a mass casualty situation. They would be dispatched to a report of an officer-involved shooting or high-profile police emergency and an ambulance would deploy with the hazardous materials team, he said. As part of the plan, an ambulance also would be staged at all firefighter training events, in case medical issues arise or rehabilitation is needed, according to Esler.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that being a backup operation would require additional fire department staff and cost between $500,000 and $1 million, he said.

“There is no additional staffing,” he said. “These ambulances are on reserve, essentially.”

Backup would occur only about 50 times a year, he said. Buying the two used ambulances for $131,000 will not require a tax increase because the funds would come from money the city borrowed to buy a tower truck and there was money leftover, he said. Esler estimates the city would generate $250 per ambulance transport, and said that is a conservative number.

He stressed that he wants to continue working with Delta Ambulance, which he described as a “very good organization,” and is committed to doing so.

“Together, I think we can solve this problem,” he said.

The council on Nov. 6 voted 7-0 to postpone the decision on overriding the veto. Councilors voted 6-0 Oct. 15 to buy two used ambulances for $131,000. Isgro vetoed the vote three days later, saying more time was needed for information to be gathered by both the council and the public.

The Oct. 18 veto says the council formed a committee to study fire department needs, the panel met behind closed doors, and less than a month later it recommended the council approve the ambulance purchases — which it did, unanimously. Isgro maintained more time should have been spent researching the plan, including having an unbiased, third-party review of costs and revenue projections.

All proposed city purchases exceeding $10,000 require a competitive bid process except in rare cases where the items purchased are considered unique or noncompetitive. City Solicitor William A. Lee III issued an opinion recently that says there was no publication in the newspaper before the ambulances were purchased and only two vendors were contacted. Lee’s opinion said the proposed purchase of used ambulances does not meet the criteria of unique or noncompetitive.

City Manager Michael Roy said recently that he was deliberately left out of discussions about the purchase.

The council voted Oct. 15 to buy one ambulance from Autotronics, with addresses in Frenchville, Madawaska and Bangor. It is a 2011 Chevy diesel Osage Ambulance, with 74,160 miles on it, for $55,000. The other ambulance is a 2012 Chevy diesel P.S. Custom Ambulance, with 95,500 miles, for $47,500. As part of the vote, the council approved buying two used Stryker Power-Cots for $18,000. With discounts, the total cost to the city would be $111,000.

After Esler’s presentation Tuesday, Isgro requested the information be put on the city’s website for people. He encouraged the public to review it and reach out to Esler, councilors or others if they have questions or comments before the next council vote Dec. 3

“Please reach out, but I want to thank the fire chief for putting this together and believe it or not, asking questions doesn’t mean you don’t support the fire department,” Isgro said.

In a separate fire service matter Tuesday, the council voted 6-0 to buy cardiac monitors for the fire department from Stryker Lifepak for $397,213. The city previously accepted a federal award for $370,415 and ordered that $12,347 be used for the equipment from the capital improvement reserve fund. Funds are expected from other municipalities as well.

In other matters, Roy announced that the city’s annual report was dedicated to Thomas R.W. Longstaff, a former state representative, city councilor, first responder, hospital chaplain and charter commission co-chairman who serves on the board of directors for the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter and Kennebec Behavioral Health. Longstaff is also a member of Waterville Rotary Club and is involved in the community in other ways.

Roy said Longstaff was being recognized for playing a huge role in city government and in the community, and has played a quiet role in many community endeavors that supported people’s needs. When he was elected to the state Legislature, Longstaff was known for his willingness to reach across the aisle, according to Roy.

“We always knew that he would do it in a very civil and productive manner,” he said.

Longstaff stood to say the dedication came as an “enormous surprise,” and he credited his wife, Cindy, as having a hand in his efforts.

“Cindy has been a part of it and she has done a lot in the community as well,” he said.

The council voted to authorize Waterville Creates! to replace and relocate, at its own expense, the existing pedestrian skywalk between 93 Main St., also known as The Center, and City Hall. Another vote is needed to finalize the order. Waterville Creates! president and chief executive officer Shannon Haines presented the plans to the council.

Councilors voted to support The Elm at 21 College Ave. as the location for the March 3 presidential primary, as the usual voting location, Thomas College field house, is not available on that date, according to City Clerk Patti Dubois.

Councilors also voted 4-2 to amend the city’s property maintenance ordinance, with Oliveira and Coelho opposing the amendment, saying they did not approve of the wording. One more vote is required to finalize the amendments.

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