HARRISON - Fire Chief Scott Andrews walked out of the selectmen's meeting Tuesday night after his request for money to buy a used ambulance failed to reach a vote.
"Let them stay in the ditch," he said of patients treated by first responders while awaiting an ambulance to take them to a hospital.
Andrews was visibly upset because selectmen would not go along with his request to transfer $4,400 to buy an ambulance with more than 190,000 miles on it.
The chief said the ambulance would not be used to transport patients, but would be sent out to provide a private place, out of the view of the public, to treat them until an ambulance arrived.
Andrews said the department had followed the selectmen's wishes in setting up a First Responder program and training people to become Emergency Medical Technicians.
"Now we need a place to put patients in bad weather," Andrews said.
Selectman Kathy LaPlante made a motion to grant the transfer of money.
Selectman Lisa Villa said buying an ambulance is something that should be decided at a town meeting.
Selectmen voted several weeks ago to add United Ambulance to the town's ambulance service providers. Up until that point, Pace had been the designated provider. A second vote on the issue, also favoring adding United, was taken at the June town meeting.
Villa questioned the need for the town to have its own ambulance, saying, "United is going to have a 15-minute response time."
Chairman Bill Winslow asked, "You don't have the money to maintain it, do you?"
Andrews said it wouldn't cost the town any money because fuel and insurance costs are already built into the budget.
Selectman Eddie Rolfe questioned buying another vehicle, especially one with so many miles on it.
"I know I sound like a broken record," Rolfe said, "but where do we stop the spending? The people come and vote for one thing and we spend it on another," he said, referring to the June town meeting. "It's not right."
"The selectmen wanted faster response time," LaPlante said. "Now the Fire Department is trying to provide it, and you're not supporting it. Obviously I am in favor of this."
Her son, Dana, is the assistant chief and her husband, Ray, is the town's emergency management director.
"We did vote for training for EMTs," Villa said, "But this board did not vote to purchase a vehicle."
"What if it was your daughter in the ditch?" Andrews said to Villa. "Are you going to leave her there?"
Selectmen took no vote on the issue, because there was no second to LaPlante's motion. Noting the lack of a second, Winslow ended the discussion, prompting Andrews' exit from the meeting room.
After the door slammed shut, Town Manager Brad Plante said he wished the chief had stayed, because he wanted to clear up a rumor about the cost of refurbishing an antique firetruck.
Plante said he overheard "a very, very nice, little old lady" telling someone at a parade in Bridgton that Harrison had spent $27,000 repairing the town's antique firetruck.
Actually, Plante said, the $27,000 figure is the appraised value. It cost about $3,000 to repair it, and the labor was free, provided by inmates at the state prison, he said.
For residents who need to find a cool place to stay during the current heat wave, selectmen agreed to open the air-conditioned meeting room at the town hall from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In other action the selectmen:
- Voted 3-1 (Rolfe voted no, Selectman Bill Goodwin was absent) to seek a second legal opinion on the Buteau case.
- Set an "ascertainment hearing" for July 27 at 7 p.m. at the town office for residents to voice their opinions about Time Warner cable TV service, in preparation for negotiating a new contract.
- Signed an agreement with the Western Maine Fish and Game Association to maintain the Twin Bridges Picnic Area.