WATERVILLE — City councilors this week voted to finalize a request to spend up to $343,496 for a new ambulance and related equipment for the Fire Department.

City Manager Steve Daly said $250,000 for the ambulance will come from the Fire Department reserve account and $90,000 from the city’s unassigned fund balance in the general fund. That $90,000, he said, is to be repaid to the general fund over three years, using proceeds from the Fire Department’s EMS operation.

The council held the first of two needed votes April 5 to take funds from the fire rescue reserve account to buy an ambulance and related equipment. The council took a final, 7-0 vote Tuesday to take the money from that account and then voted 6-0 to authorize Daly to contract with Autotronics for the ambulance. Autotronics sells emergency vehicles from locations in Bangor and Frenchville. Councilor Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, was present for the first ambulance-related vote Tuesday but had to leave the meeting, so he didn’t vote on buying it from Autotronics.

The new ambulance is scheduled to arrive in about a year and will complement the work of the city’s two used ambulances, fire Chief Shawn Esler said recently. The Fire Department and Delta Ambulance have an agreement whereby they work together to transport patients to hospitals, as well as between facilities.

In other matters Tuesday, City Clerk Patti Dubois notified councilors that, based on the results of the federal census, the number of inhabitants in one city ward exceeds the number of people in another ward by 10%, requiring  the city to redistrict wards.

“This is your formal notice that this process needs to take place,” Dubois said.

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The council is mandated to redistrict the wards by city ordinance within six months, she said.

The city has seven wards and census data shows the average ward population should be 2,265. Currently there are 2,320 people in Ward 1; 2,146 in Ward 2; 1,431 in Ward 3; 2,276 in Ward 4; 2,490 in Ward 5; 2,685 in Ward 6; and 2,507 in Ward 7, according to Dubois. She noted that the change in Ward 3 was due in part to the coronavirus pandemic when Colby College students were required to live elsewhere. Also, in Ward 6 downtown, some 200 students and staff also did not live in the Colby residence building during part of the pandemic.

Klepach said he is concerned the people in his ward would have their representation significantly diluted with a redistricting and asked if there is a way to address the data in terms of the problem having been dictated by the pandemic. Dubois said that, to her knowledge, there is no provision for making artificial or temporary adjustments based on data, but she would check with City Solicitor William A. Lee III.

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, said that the intent of the city charter is to have fair districts and as he sees it, the council has a charter issue regarding the redistricting matter. Another question, he said, is whether the city is stuck with redistricting for the next 10 years or whether the charter allows the council to make adjustments in the interim period. There are also questions as to whether Colby students who live downtown were included in the census — and whether Thomas College students were counted as well. He said Dubois would have voter registration numbers for the districts.

“Population is what counts,” Francke said. “I think voter registrations could be informative in terms of trying to make sense of things.”

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