Calais, Baileyville to begin talks on merging emergency services to save money

Posted March 11, 2009, at 11:18 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — Given the troubled news coming out of Baileyville last week, the Public Safety Committee on Wednesday directed the city manager to begin talks with Baileyville about consolidating police, ambulance and fire services.

City Manager Diane Barnes made that recommendation to the Public Safety Committee. “To help each community save money,” Barnes said during a meeting at the Calais City Building. “We can start it and see if it is feasible and see if everybody is in agreement with that. I think Baileyville probably will be, too.”

Last week, Baileyville’s largest employer, Domtar Corp., announced that it was idling its pulp mill indefinitely beginning May 5, tossing more than 300 people out of work. The announcement has sent shock waves across eastern Washington County.

Baileyville’s interim Town Manager Dottie Johnson said during a telephone interview Wednesday night that the Town Council had not discussed consolidating emergency service with Calais. Johnson did not attend the meeting.

She confirmed that the town had received a letter from Barnes outlining the cost of a Calais-run ambulance service. Right now Baileyville operates its own ambulance service. “The council hasn’t discussed that yet,” she said of the ambulance offer.

In February, Calais voted to pull out of the regional Washington County Emergency Medical Services Authority and start its own ambulance service. Part of the city’s plan is to provide service to surrounding towns that are already members of WCEMSA, but at a lower cost. The authority is a quasi-municipal entity that oversees Downeast EMS ambulance operations. Coverage for Downeast EMS includes member towns from Eastport to Calais and from Lubec to Whiting.

Johnson confirmed in the wake of the Domtar Corp. announcement that the town was looking at ways to cut costs.

“When I talk to the Town Council about [consolidation] I am sure they will consider that as much as they would consider having the Washington County Sheriff’s Department cover [the town] or whatever else,” she said. Baileyville now has its own police department.

Barnes said any cooperative effort would have to be studied and reviewed.

“Given what they are going through and what we all are going through and, you’re right, they’re revamping their entire outlook on things financially there, this is the appropriate time to have that conversation,” said Calais Councilor Joe Cassidy, who also is chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

bdncalais@myfairpoint.net

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