WATERVILLE — City officials expect to have a new $343,000 ambulance and related equipment at the fire station next year after the City Council this week voted to approve the purchase from Autotronics of Bangor.

The 7-0 vote Tuesday did not come immediately, however, with at least one councilor questioning the timing of the decision to buy the ambulance before the municipal budget process has been completed.

But fire Chief Shawn Esler said most of the money for the ambulance and equipment would come from the Fire Department reserve account, which is money the department has garnered through running its own ambulance service.

Councilors amended the request to buy the ambulance, deciding $250,000 would come from the Fire Department reserve account and the $90,000 for the equipment — which includes a stretcher, power loader to lift extremely heavy patients, and heart monitor — to come from the city’s general fund. The department would pay back the city $30,000 a year for the next three years to make up for the equipment loan.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, noted that the city bought two used ambulances two years ago, the city just approved raises for Fire Department employees and that the department is getting ready for a reorganization. He said he thought the city was getting ahead of itself by buying the ambulance now, before the municipal budget has been discussed.

“I’m just concerned that we’ve got some budget issues that should probably be discussed in the fuller budget picture rather than in a proposal that has just dropped in out of nowhere,” Francke said.

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But Mayor Jay Coelho insisted the purchase was not a surprise move and that the city expected to buy an ambulance this year. The ambulance, he said, wouldn’t be arriving in the city until next year.

“We have the money,” he said. “It’s there, we earned it.”

Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5, agreed.

“You got my support,” he told Esler. “I’ve seen the numbers. They continue to grow.”

Esler said there is a need for a third ambulance. From Jan. 1 to March 31 last year the department did 853 ambulance runs, and this year during that time it has done 1,218 runs, reflecting a 43% increase.

“Our Fire Department is providing care to our community at an extremely high level,” he said. “They’re doing a great job, working alongside Delta Ambulance.”

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Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, said she agreed with some points Francke made. The Fire Department reserve account has $290,000 in it and taking out $250,000 would leave $40,000 remaining, she said. She said she was in favor of the proposal but she did not support borrowing from the city’s general fund.

“I am concerned about the expenditure,” she said. “It’s a huge amount of money and we are (in) pre-budget season and we have a lot of unknowns.”

She asked Esler when he anticipates having to buy another ambulance.

Esler said an ambulance used all day, every day, has a five- to eight-year life span, so the city would likely have to buy another one in five to seven years. He noted that it is important to buy the ambulance now as the prices are going up.

In other matters, the council voted to allow parts of Silver and Common streets, as well as Merchant’s Way downtown, to be closed from April to Nov. 1 for outdoor dining. In addition, councilors took a first of two votes to amend the outdoor dining section of the city’s licenses and permits ordinance to formalize the extended outdoor dining requirements, allow for use of city-owned space for other activities such as entertainment, and adjust the fees.

Councilors approved a plan by the Police Department to spend $2,000 from its drug forfeiture account as a down payment to buy 15 tasers and accessories on a five-year plan for a total cost of $64,254. Police Chief Joseph Massey said the department’s tasers are at the end of their shelf lives.

The council also approved a $349,920 contract with O’Brien & Sons Inc. of Medway, Massachusetts, for the purchase and installation of playground equipment at parks around the city.

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