Increasing costs and lagging insurance reimbursements associated with providing emergency medical care are among the reasons Delta Ambulance is seeking to an impose a service fee on the towns it serves in central Maine. The largest of those towns, Fairfield, would have to pay about $97,000 a year. Above, Timothy Beals, the executive director of Delta Ambulance, in February. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

Several towns in central Maine for which Delta Ambulance provides emergency response have begun discussions on whether to adopt a new Delta fee that would cost most of them tens of thousands of dollars a year, with the two towns taking the largest hit — Fairfield and Oakland — already giving tentative approval.

The town councils in those two communities — the largest of the 14 that Delta serves — have given their consent to the fee and it is now up to residents at the town meetings to have the final say.

Fairfield would end up paying more than $97,000 a year and Oakland nearly $96,000.

Officials at Waterville-based Delta have said increasing costs and low insurance reimbursements have forced the nonprofit to ask communities to pay an annual service fee for 911 emergency services. The fee is calculated based on a town’s population, with the company charging $15 per resident.

One of the 14 towns, Freedom, has already said no and switched last month to Unity Ambulance Corp., Select Board Chair Ron Price said, adding the amount Delta was seeking from the town, about $11,200, was too much.

“The (fee) they wanted was a pretty big chunk after not having taken any money from us in the past,” Price said.


There has been some pushback from residents so the board has agreed to revisit the issue, Price said, but as long as the town is satisfied with the service from Unity, there will not be any change.

Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said the Town Council has agreed to use federal American Rescue Plan Act money to pay the fee for the coming year, allowing the town to maintain services from Delta without increasing property taxes.

While officials discussed other options for ambulance service, Flewelling said they decided the town would not be able to switch over this year. And with Delta offering all towns a one-year contract, Fairfield officials will be able to revaluate next year.

“This definitely lightens the blow of that, which is good and will give us the time we need to figure out what is the best possible option when it comes to ambulance service,” Flewelling said.

Ella Bowman, the town manager in Oakland, said officials there were able to reduce other portions of the town budget to absorb the cost without increasing property taxes. Buying an ambulance and hiring staff members to replace Delta is not in the cards now, she said.

“Basically, it’s the only game in town for us,” Bowman said. “We are not willing to go out and buy a truck at this time.”


Only two of the 14 towns served by Delta have held their town meetings so far. Rome and Smithfield have approved the new charge. Several of the towns are slated to hold town meetings this weekend, including Albion, Belgrade and Whitefield.

Other town meetings, however, are not scheduled until May or June, leaving the impact on Delta and the region unclear for several more months.

Tim Beals, the executive director of Delta, said there are a few proposed bills in the Maine Legislature that address the funding problem for ambulance services and could boost the industry, which is part of the reason the company is offering one-year contracts to towns. If those bills pass, Delta might be able to reduce the fee next year.

“We’re hoping that the towns will continue to support us and we continue to support them,” Beals said.

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