BAILEYVILLE, Maine — This town has decided to stick with backup from the regional ambulance service instead of switching to a service soon to be provided by its closest neighbor, Calais.
Earlier this year Calais announced it was cutting its ties with Downeast EMS.
Washington County Emergency Medical Services Authority, a quasi-municipal entity, oversees Downeast EMS ambulance. It is made up of 15 member towns from Danforth to Lubec and Eastport to Crawford. At one time, Calais was its largest member town.
The change in ambulance service began after the Calais City Council in February voted to leave the regional ambulance authority. The city is buying ambulances. Calais’ switch to city-owned ambulance service is expected to occur July 1.
Baileyville expects to continue to operate its own volunteer ambulance service.
“Baileyville ambulance is going to go on as it has,” interim Town Manager Dottie Johnson said Monday. “We do have backup from Downeast EMS and we are going to expect a deal on that. We will negotiate with them to get cheaper rates.”
The regional authority used to base its ambulance at the Calais fire station, but with the switchover, Washington County Emergency Medical Services Authority has to move.
Johnson said she plans to notify Downeast EMS at its meeting in Meddybemps tonight that it will be able to base its ambulance in Baileyville.
“The … ambulance authority contacted Baileyville to see if we could find a place for them to use as a barn for their ambulance so they would have a presence in [this] part of the county since they’ve been kicked out of Calais,” she said Monday.
The town contacted its largest employer, Montreal-based Domtar Corp., about using its former heliport. The facility on Main Street near the Access Road at one time housed a helicopter that belonged to the pulp mill’s former owner, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific Corp.
“We just got permission from corporate Domtar on Friday that they could lease that to the town, and we are working on leasing language,” she said.
Shortly after Calais decided to start its own ambulance service, it sent letters to Downeast EMS member towns offering to provide ambulance service to them. To date, the majority of towns appear to be sticking with Downeast EMS.
Calais Assistant City Manager Jim Porter said Tuesday he did not know the details of the agreement between Baileyville and Downeast EMS. “Our intent was never to let anybody go without ambulance service,” he said. “We just wanted to be able to provide it if they called on us.”
Porter said there was a possibility the various agencies would be able to provide mutual backup. “We will talk about that if they want to talk about it,” he said. Porter said the city’s ambulance service remains on track for the July 1 changeover.
After Calais announced it was leaving the regional authority, it appeared that Downeast EMS might not survive, but authority officials decided they could make a success of it. They appointed a new director and began talks with Baileyville.
Calais offered to provide backup service to Baileyville for about $17,000 a year, Johnson said. In the past, Downeast EMS has charged the town $1,000 a month.
Although Baileyville’s ambulance service will continue, it has switched from being a free service to a pay-as-you-go service.
Johnson praised the town’s ambulance service and said it had enough people to cover each of its shifts. “Our ambulance is doing very well. They have 100 percent [coverage] the last couple of months and we are very pleased with what they are doing,” she said.