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Maine Town Considers Ambulance Proposals

By the time Monday's deadline rolled around, town officials had received proposals from three area providers of emergency medical services - including the volunteer group that has been providing the service locally for decades and still does.

On Tuesday, Fire Chief Ray Pipes said the town received proposals from:

Hermon Volunteer Rescue and First Aid Squad Inc., the 28-member crew that has been serving the community for 42 years.

Capital Ambulance Service, operated by Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems' Meridian Mobile Health.

G&H Ambulance of Glenburn and Hudson.

Town Manager Clinton Deschene said last month that the existing squad's level of service never has been an issue. The problem has been the absence of a contract, which he noted was both a risk and a source of concern for a Maine Municipal Association staff attorney the town had consulted. Another reason was the level of compensation the squad sought in its most recent offer, submitted in December. Pipes said the offer called for a three-year agreement at a cost of $40,000 for the first year of service, $50,000 for the second year and $60,000 for the year after that.

Fire Chief Ray Pipes noted last month that as a matter of policy, the town is required to seek bids for any purchase more than $25,000. He said the town charter also requires that a special town meeting be held in order to approve unbudgeted expenditures exceeding $25,000. Despite that, Pipes said, local officials did not initially approach any other provider out of respect for the long-standing relationship between the town and its volunteer crew.

Steve Watson, chairman of Hermon Rescue, noted that the offer also included a provision for an initial half-year term at a cost of $17,500 but that town councilors opted not to go that route, which he said "baffled" the crew. After the town issued its request for proposals, leaders of Hermon Volunteer Rescue said they were slammed with calls and visits from residents wondering whether the crew was going to call it quits. Watson's response? "Absolutely not." Sherman Mason, Hermon Rescue crew chief, said the crew intends to continue serving residents regardless of what happens. Though Mason admits he's a bit biased, the best outcome as he sees it would be for the town and the volunteer crew to enter an agreement but at the same time "open up a dialogue" and forge a better working relationship.

Pipes said Tuesday that he and other local officials, including a Fire Department captain and the town manager, now must review the proposals to see how they compare in terms of quality of service, cost and proximity, among other things. Pipes said the process likely will take a few weeks.

A recommendation to town councilors will follow, he said.

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