HERMON, Maine — A year after a dispute between local officials and members of a local volunteer rescue squad caused some heartburn in the community, representatives of both sides have hammered out a potential partnership pact.
The proposed three-year agreement, developed over several months by a local task force, is set to undergo review by the Town Council during a meeting scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Public Safety Building meeting room.
Among the issues that the 12-page public-private partnership addresses are responsibilities of the Hermon Volunteer Rescue and First Aid Squad and those of the town, ranging from certification and insurance requirements to shared training and education opportunities.
It sets forth a mechanism for fees and subsidies for services provided by each group and requires the rescue squad to provide an annual report to be included in the town’s annual report and the town to provide a page for the group on its website, among other things. It also establishes a protocol for what kinds of emergency calls both groups will be dispatched to.
The document can be seen in the agenda packet for Thursday night’s meeting.
The proposed formal agreement between the town and the volunteer squad was prompted by council vote on Jan. 6 of last year to seek proposals for ambulance services, which had been provided for decades by Hermon Rescue.
The move was driven in large part by the town’s insurance company and the level of compensation sought by the nonprofit squad, Fire Chief Ray Pipes said at that time.
He said the decision to seek contract proposals, a concept discussed locally for several years, was based upon the need to protect the town as well as the service provider. Despite that, Pipes said, local officials did not initially approach any other provider out of respect for the longstanding relationship between the town and its volunteer crew.
In response, Hermon Rescue’s board chairman, Steve Watson, issued a statement saying that the 28-member squad wasn’t going anywhere and intended to continue providing emergency medical care to residents.
Three ambulance service providers, including Hermon Volunteer Rescue, submitted proposals in time for the Jan. 31 deadline but after analyzing them the next month, town councilors decided to go in a different direction — a fire-based emergency medical services model that would bring ambulance services under the auspices of the town’s Fire Department.
The decision left many Hermon Rescue members feeling angry, betrayed and baffled.
A month later, councilors said that they weren’t yet ready to reverse their fire-based EMS vote but did agree to another round of talks with Hermon Rescue, this time guided by an impartial facilitator, a measure to which both sides agreed.
During a problem-solving session in April, representatives from both sides of the issue agreed to establish a local task force to decide how emergency medical services should be provided and by whom. The status quo remained in effect in the meantime.