Mayor rebukes EMS director on service study

Posted Sept. 15, 2008, at 8:46 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — The mayor criticized the director of Downeast EMS at a City Council meeting last week, saying he was not cooperating with city officials exploring the possibility of dumping the ambulance authority and going it alone.

At the meeting of the City Council on Thursday, Mayor Vinton Cassidy told Danny Carlow, director of Downeast EMS, that he believed Carlow was not working with the city as it explores whether to remain with the Washington County Medical Service Authority. Carlow is also the city’s fire chief.

The criticism came during the roundtable portion of the meeting that allows councilors to bring up matters not on the agenda.

The criticism stemmed from a workshop the council held last week about what other communities are doing with their ambulance services. Authority members and employees from other communities attended the workshop.

Calais is part of the Washington County Medical Service Authority, a quasimunicipal entity that was created more than five years ago to oversee Downeast EMS, which provides ambulance service for 22 towns. A resident from each of the service communities — including Danforth, Calais, Lubec and Whiting — serves on the authority’s board of directors.

Grant money was expected to cover capital costs when the ambulance service started up, but funds did not materialize. Calais, Eastport and Lubec bankrolled the $800,000 equipment startup costs. The authority contracted with the Bangor Fire Department to handle its billing.

All revenues from the ambulance service go to the Washington County Medical Service Authority. Each of the participating communities is credited for a share of that revenue.

Calais pays more than $93,000 a year to the authority, and city councilors, unhappy with the cost, directed City Manager Diane Barnes in June to look into the city going it alone.

“We are paying the lion’s share of the cost,” Cassidy said Thursday.

Jim Porter, Calais assistant city manager and chairman of the ambulance authority board, attended the council meeting Thursday but did not join the discussion.

Cassidy said he was concerned about what it was costing the city to be part of the authority.

“We are not trying to hurt the other communities,” Cassidy said. “We have to represent the folks that elected us. I wasn’t elected by Eastport, Lubec or anyplace else.”

Although the city has the largest population and expense, the mayor noted, Calais has only one vote on the authority’s board.

Cassidy then told Carlow that it was his job to cooperate with the city.

“We should have cooperation from you and the rest of the staff,” he said. “I would think that your main thing as a dedicated employee working for us … [would be to] want to try and cooperate with us and help us do this … instead of you putting up these walls.”

Carlow denied that he had not cooperated.

“Everything that the city manager has asked for I have done in a timely matter. It has been a tremendous amount of work for my staff as well as myself to gather this information,” the fire chief said.

Carlow also pointed out that he is not in charge of the authority’s budget and suggested that Cassidy direct his questions to the authority’s board of directors.

Cassidy suggested that the authority had been set up in such a way that it appeared there was no accountability.

“I really hope we can get some cooperation,” he told Carlow.

“And the manager has received 100 percent cooperation [from me],” Carlow answered.

The council will decide next year whether it plans to remain with the authority.

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