LINCOLN, Maine — Town leaders will try to finalize a tentative contract with East Millinocket next week to create the town’s first ambulance service, officials said Saturday.
The Town Council will meet in a special session at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss the East Millinocket Fire Department’s request to extend the proposed contract from one to three years, Chairman Steve Clay said.
The ambulance service, which will be run by East Millinocket’s fire department in conjunction with Lincoln’s, will replace that offered by Penobscot Valley Hospital of Lincoln.
“It is a good thing for the town of Lincoln and the surrounding towns,” Clay said Saturday. “The biggest reason is there won’t be an interruption when the hospital shuts down their service. That is the main thing.”
“We will be able to make some money to go toward the fire department and public safety building because that is where the ambulance will be housed,” Clay added.
The council voted 6-1 on March 11 to allow interim Town Manager William Lawrence to enter into a contract with East Millinocket, Lawrence said.
Penobscot Valley CEO David Shannon has said that the hospital is considering dropping its ambulance service due to unprofitability. Lincoln Fire Chief Phil Dawson told councilors after the meeting that the towns could draw revenue from the service because federal and state reimbursement rates are higher for municipalities than hospitals.
The tentative deal would allow East Millinocket firefighters to place two ambulances at the Lincoln Public Safety Building. The second ambulance would act as a backup while the first handles calls. The combined service would cover about 1,200 square miles, the 14-town region Penobscot Valley presently covers, Dawson has said.
East Millinocket would provide emergency medical technicians and Lincoln would provide drivers, with East Millinocket paying for four hours of overtime to fill in when both ambulances are handling emergencies Dawson said.
East Millinocket would pay Lincoln $75 per call. About $90,000 would be generated with 1,200 calls and $112,500 would come from 1,500 calls, Dawson said.
The service would be cost-free to Lincoln’s town government and the revenue would go into Lincoln Fire Department equipment accounts, Dawson said.
Clint Linscott, chairman of East Millinocket’s Board of Selectmen, did not immediately return a telephone message Saturday.
Lincoln and East Millinocket officials hope to start the ambulance service by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, at the earliest, Lawrence said.
“It depends on the hospital and what they decide to do. That is what makes it so challenging,” Lawrence said.
Lincoln officials considered getting into the ambulance service before, but dropped the idea in October 2006. The proposal was for the fire chief to run a part-time ambulance service that would take patients to and from Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln, the PVH dialysis center or to other medical facilities.
A rebuilt 1999 Ford E-450 PL Custom ambulance was purchased for $48,680. The service would have created about 20 part-time jobs for emergency medical technicians or paramedics.
It would not have replaced or supplemented the PVH ambulance service, which typically handles 911 calls, but it would cut into the non-911 transportation service offered by the East Millinocket Fire Department, which handles the Lincoln Lakes and Katahdin regions.
The fire chief who proposed the idea, William Lee, resigned Feb. 1, 2005, and his successor, Joshua Williams, quit a year later after five months on the job. Then-Town Manager Glenn Aho said eliminating the service was a good idea, as it would have cost the town a lot more money than expected.