WINSLOW — The Winslow Town Council took its first vote Monday night to authorize the town to buy a used ambulance so the Fire Department may begin operating its own ambulance service.

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 decided Monday to take a first vote on buying one used ambulance, which passed. A second vote will be taken May 9. Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

Councilors voted 6-1 to authorize Town Manager Michael Heavener to spend up to $85,000 to buy the ambulance and related equipment.

Council Chairman Ray Caron voted against the measure.

The council was originally set to vote on whether to allow the town to buy two used ambulances and related equipment for $204,400.

During Monday’s meeting, however, Councilor Jeff West made a motion to amend the original proposal to limit the town to buy only one ambulance.

“I think it would ease a lot of people’s concern of spending less money now,” West said. 

Caron said he was concerned one ambulance might not be enough for the town, especially if it were to experience mechanical issues.

“The dealer has provided assurance that if we experience some sort of mechanical difficulty, they’d provide us with a backup,” Fire Chief Ronnie Rodriguez said. 

In a 5-2 vote, the council approved the amendment. Caron and Councilman Ben Twitchell voted in opposition.

Discussion then turned to whether the council wanted to authorize the purchase overall, due to some remaining questions surrounding a town-operated ambulance service.

During a special meeting April 9, Rodriguez spent time answering questions from the council about the service.

After more than an hour of discussion, however, councilors voted to delay a first vote on the original, more-expensive proposal to allow them to gather more information and answer questions from community members.

Residents with questions were encouraged to email them to the Town Office, and after eight days of collecting the questions, Heavener posted the questions and answers about the proposed purchase on the town’s website.

At Monday night’s meeting, Twitchell said some residents were upset a decision on buying a used ambulance would be made without a public hearing because they had more questions.

“It’s not a complaint of the (ambulance) service, but a complaint of not having a public forum,” Twitchell said. “I have no problem with that, but people are still asking questions.”

Councilor Patricia Ayer responded, saying: “We’ve been working on this for 18 months. This is, I think, the fifth meeting we’ve talked about it. It’s been in every single area for people to ask questions. All the comments I’m getting on the Facebook (Live) right now is that we need to vote and stop stalling.”

After another brief discussion, the council held a first vote to allow the purchase. The council’s decision is not final, however, until it holds a second vote, scheduled for May 9.

The money to buy the ambulance and equipment would come from the Fire Department’s capital account and would not increase the town’s property tax rate, according to Heavener.

Rodriguez said the Fire Department is already providing emergency medical technician services. The purchase of the used ambulance and having licensed paramedics on staff, however, would be the last pieces needed to give Winslow a fully functioning ambulance service.

Five employees could test for their paramedic certification in December, after they have completed a course at Kennebec Valley Community College.

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