The Winslow Town Council on Thursday night is expected to consider whether to authorize Town Manager Michael Heavener to buy two used ambulances and related equipment to prepare the Fire Department to operate its own ambulance service and transport patients to hospitals.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and will be livestreamed on the platform Zoom at vimeo.com/403676394, and on YouTube, the Crossroads TV Facebook page and cable channel 1301, according to Heavener.

Members of the public may not attend the meeting due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since coming to the job as Winslow fire chief in 2018, Ronnie Rodriguez has expanded the staff, increased medical training and sought to add an ambulance service. The Winslow Town Council is expected to vote Thursday night on whether to buy two used ambulances. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Those watching the meeting may email comments to [email protected], according to Heavener.

Heavener said Tuesday the cost of the two ambulances is estimated at $120,000, but he thinks it will be more like $80,000.

The money to buy the ambulances and related equipment would come from the Fire Department’s capital account. Heavener said the purchase would not increase the town’s tax rate.

“It’s something that the town has been considering for some time now,” Heavener said of the ambulance purchase.

The order the council will consider Thursday requires two votes, but Heavener said councilors could decide to waive a second reading of the order and pass it with just one vote.

If councilors decide to take two votes, they could take the first one Thursday and the second at the council’s regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, according to Heavener.

There is a process for licensing an ambulance service, Heavener said. If Winslow were to buy the ambulances and related equipment, there is a 30-day waiting period before the town could be licensed to operate the service.

“The plan right now is our service would be the primary responder,” Heavener said, “and we’d use Delta (Ambulance) as mutual aid.”

The city of Waterville has also bought two used ambulances, but is using them only when Delta is significantly delayed in responding to calls.

Heavener said a town-operated ambulance service in Winslow would decrease response times and generate revenue, according to information from Winslow Fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez.

Town officials looked at the response times over the past six months, according to Heavener. He said the average response time for Winslow’s emergency medical services rescue was 3.17 minutes versus 8.24 minutes for the private ambulance service.

Winslow’s ambulance committee voted 4-2 on March 23 to recommend the town buy two used ambulances, according to Heavener.

Heavener said town officials have been working with a dealer as they search for ambulance options. At least one ambulance under consideration is from out of state.

Based on figures provided by the Fire Department, the ambulance service would cost the town about $29,000 in its first year. In its second year, the service would generate a projected $149,000 in revenue, according to town data.

“Over a four-year period, it is projected to generate about $417,000 in revenue,” Heavener said.

Five Winslow Fire Department employees are enrolled at Kennebec Valley Community College and working toward their paramedic licenses, according to information from the March 23 meeting of the town’s ambulance committee.

Once the five employees are licensed, Winslow would have at least one paramedic working per shift, according to the committee.

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