An ambulance is moved at the Winslow Fire Department on Jan. 10, 2023. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

WINSLOW — Winslow town officials say they’re struggling to address staffing shortages and budget overruns for paramedics responding to local calls.

Leonard Macdaid, Winslow’s public safety director, told members of the Town Council at a meeting Monday night that the department had to cut back on its use of eight per-diem paramedic positions earlier this month after overtime pay set the department on track to greatly exceed its budget.

Lisa Carey, who worked part-time as a per-diem paramedic in Winslow prior to the cutbacks, said during the council meeting that the absence of paramedics and staffing shortages in the fire department may leave it unable to adequately respond to medical emergencies.

Leonard Macdaid, public safety director for the town of Winslow, is seen in his office on Jan. 10, 2024. Morning Sentinel file

“You are down to the bare bones of coverage,” she said. “I guess the bottom line is how much money do you want to put on a life? Put a number on somebody’s life and see if that works for them.”

Macdaid told councilors the town faces tough decisions as a result of ongoing budgetary concerns.

“I’ll be the first one to admit it,” he said. “I didn’t make it myself, I’ll take full responsibility, but I did run it by the town manager and Deputy (Fire) Chief Murphy. Like I said, my job is to keep the budget in control, (the councilors) got elected off of saving money, and I’ll do whatever you want me to do.”


Per-diem paramedics are emergency medical professionals employed on a per-day or per-shift basis, rather than as a full-time or salaried employee. They undergo more advanced training and offer a higher level of care than emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, who receive fundamental training and largely provide basic care.

The Winslow Fire Department maintains a three-person staffing minimum with one paramedic on hand, Macdaid said. None of Winslow’s firefighters are currently paramedics, though they are all required to be certified EMTs.

Paramedics were informed of the cutbacks via email on Jan. 2, Carey said.

“I was working at my full-time job in Waterville and an email went out,” Carey said. “We didn’t get called, nothing else happened … The per-diem paramedic that was actually working in the station that day was not even told. I was the one who called her and asked her about it.”

Employing paramedics has become costly for Winslow, which pays per-diem paramedics $725 per 24-hour shift. Coupled with low staffing in both the fire and police departments requiring many first responders to dip into overtime, Macdaid said Winslow is facing immense strain on its staffing resources.

“Our overtime line for the year was $110,000,” he said. “We’re already at $90,000. The part-time line is $65,000 we’re allotted, that’s where the per-diem paramedics come out of. We’ve already spent $54,000, so we’re running out of money. If I kept going the way we’re going, we would be in big trouble.”


Fran Hudson Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The decision was met with criticism by newly-elected councilor Fran Hudson, who said that paramedics provide a valuable service to residents which brings in more than enough money to keep itself afloat.

“We are making money, not a million dollars, but profit enough to keep this ambulance service running without costing any taxpayers a penny,” she said.

Macdaid said many of Winslow’s firefighters have expressed a willingness to become trained paramedics, which could alleviate expense pressure created by relying on per-diem paramedics.

Town Manager Ella Bowman said a budget analysis from December that included ambulance revenues estimated that the town will run far over budget if it continues staffing per-diem paramedics.

“At the rate we were going, we’re going to be $220,000 over budget,” Bowman said. “At that point in time, we put the brakes on. Any businessperson would do the same thing.”

Winslow Town Manager Ella Bowman says central Maine communities need to consider more regionalization of key services. Contributed photo

Councilor Raymond Caron expressed support for employing paramedics, saying the town should provide its citizens the best care possible regardless of the cost.


“For me, when a 911 call comes in, if I’m running an ambulance service, I want the most advanced level of care that I can,” he said. “I understand the overtime situation in the past was manipulated and is way over budget, but I cannot jeopardize the safety of people in the town of Winslow when we go to a call and there’s not a paramedic.”

By the end of the meeting, the council agreed, voting unanimously to maintain Winslow Fire’s three-person staffing minimum while adding a fourth per-diem paramedic.

“The budget will just do what the budget does and we’ll have to worry about it later,” council chair Jeffrey West said.


Meanwhile, the discussion became contentious when chairman West read a brief statement condemning Hudson and fellow council newcomer Michael Joseph for meeting with Waterville Fire officials to discuss town business outside of  the public eye.

“A couple of councilors have scheduled a meeting with officials from another municipality to discuss public business involving the town of Winslow,” West said. “This was done without the full town council, chair, or town manager being made aware of their actions. I find this at the very least to be concerning.”


Hudson said that she and Joseph were invited to meet with Waterville firefighters to discuss the removal of Winslow’s per-diem paramedics and that they had attempted to invite Bowman and Macdaid as well. It was not immediately clear which fire officials Hudson and Joseph met with.

“I was reaching out to get information on the removal of the paramedics,” Hudson said. “I didn’t set up a meeting, I was invited to a meeting with another councilor. … We didn’t do anything behind anybody’s back. Courtesy goes both ways. You can start respecting the new staff here, as well as we can you. Let’s just start right now.”

Joseph and Hudson were both critical of former council chairman Peter Drapeau for hosting so-called “secret meetings” between councilors at his shop, making the issue of transparency central to their campaigns. An investigation into Drapeau’s meetings found that councilors didn’t violate open meetings laws, but an attorney urged councilors to stop holding “informal gatherings,” saying that even though they may not be breaking the law, they risk damaging public trust because of the perception they were discussing town business out of public view.

West said he plans to consult with legal council about adding a rule that “no councilors should take part in or facilitate meetings with another municipality’s officials without a majority vote of the council,” although further discussion Monday night was postponed.


In other business Monday night, director Macdaid also proposed selling one of Winslow’s three ambulances due to similar budget constraints and a lack of physical space in which to keep it, although discussion was also postponed until the next council meeting. The resolution on the town’s agenda noted that the town “only has space and need for two of them for daily operations.”


“My argument is if you own a horse, you have to feed it,” Bowman said. “When you end up having a vehicle sitting outside in the weather all year long, it certainly deteriorates.”

The council also discussed potentially demolishing or redeveloping the old Winslow Junior High School building, which has begun showing asbestos and oil contamination since being left unused since 2021.

Councilor Ray Caron said he was frustrated with the council’s inaction regarding the property over the last several years, saying the land the school sits on is valuable and could be sold to the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program so it can be developed into affordable housing for senior residents.

“We’ve been kicking this can down the road for the last three years,” Caron said. “We have a responsibility. It’s a hazardous site. It’s right next to our school system.”

No action was taken by the council, as it is still waiting for KVCAP to submit a land use proposal for the site. The council’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 12

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