Baileyville to discuss reinstating ambulance service

Posted Nov. 10, 2010, at 12:01 a.m.

BAILEYVILLE, Maine — Town councilors will meet at 6 p.m. today regarding the possibility of reviving the local Ambulance Corps.

The corps served the town for 39 years before it was suspended in February after officials with a federal labor watchdog agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, visited the town and assessed more than two dozen violations.

Town Manager Linda Pagels-Wentworth said Tuesday the corps consisted of dedicated volunteers.

“It is very commendable, the work they did,” she said. “But federal and state governments require more and more, and it is impossible for volunteers to keep up with that.”

The manager said that when OSHA officials arrived last winter, the town was threatened with $1,000 a day in fines for each of the 13 to 18 violations, if the ambulance service continued to operate without change.

Part of the problem involved a lack of billing, according to the town manager.

Pagels-Wentworth said that if 100 percent of all the ambulance service bills had been collected in 2009, the total would have amounted to $36,000.

“Less than $2,000 was actually collected,” Pagels-Wentworth said. The corps did contract with the Bangor Fire Department to do the billing, but the required paperwork for much of the billing never got sent to Bangor, she said.

The council decided in February to suspend the Ambulance Corps until the OSHA violations could be corrected. “Since then, no paperwork has been generated to correct the violations,” Pagels-Wentworth said.

Meanwhile, the town has contracted with Downeast EMS for ambulance service, she said.

“This is now costing us $10,000 a year and we haven’t received a single complaint,” she said. She said many of the volunteers who worked for the corps now have paid positions with Downeast and other services.

Pagels-Wentworth said some voters were surveyed at the polls on Election Day regarding whether they wanted the corps to return. The surveying ended midday, however, when members of the corps asked that it be stopped.

Pagels-Wentworth said the group had been under the assumption that a house-to-house survey was going to be conducted.

As a result, only 221 voters completed the survey, and another 230 residents who voted after 2:30 p.m. never saw it, she said. Of those who filled it out, 121 said they wanted the corps to return, while 112 wanted to remain with Downeast EMS. Some voters selected both options.

“That is not a strong mandate,” the manager said. “It said to me that people just wanted service and they didn’t really care who came when they called.”

Tonight’s meeting will be between former Ambulance Corps members and the Town Council.

In other town business at the council’s regular meeting Monday night, several key purchases were made, including a new furnace for the town office and a compactor for the transfer station, both from local vendors.

Pagels-Wentworth said the compactor would replace a 1995 piece of equipment that has been racking up thousands of dollars in repair costs.

“We’ve spent $9,000 in the last 15 months just in repairs,” the manager said. “That’s more than half what the machine was worth.”

The council awarded the compactor contract to Woodland Machine Works of Baileyville for its $33,652 bid.

Pagels-Wentworth said the furnace replacement was an emergency action. A $5,000 purchase was authorized from another local business, V.L. Tammaro Oil Co. of Baileyville.

The council also:

• Authorized a $3,600 boundary survey of a tax-acquired property on Route 9. There is an old house on the land, which is less than 10 acres, and the Fire Department will burn the structure as a training exercise. Pagels-Wentworth said the land then would be put on the market. The funds for the survey will be taken from the town’s Economic Development Fund.

• Set a meeting with the town’s assessor, William Van Tuinen, to complete the assessment of all commercial properties and set the tax commitment.

• Set a special town meeting for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, to approve taking the furnace replacement funds from surplus. The manager said the town does not have a contingency fund. The regular council meeting will immediately follow.

• Set an executive session for 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, to conduct a job evaluation for the town manager.

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