HODGDON, Maine — Hodgdon residents voted unanimously Tuesday during a special town meeting to borrow $240,000 to go toward starting a $1.1 million ambulance service for the southern Aroostook area, the largest amount for any of the 11 towns involved in its creation.
The towns have been looking to form the Southern Aroostook Emergency Medical Services since January 2021, when Houlton, which had contracted with them to provide ambulance service, announced a significant rate increase from $16 to $74 per capita for each town.
For Hodgdon, with a little more than 1,200 people, that meant an increase of more than $74,000 for the current fiscal year.
Under the new Southern Aroostook EMS, the proposed budget shows Hodgdon paying less than what it would have if the town had stayed with Houlton, according to Hodgdon Town Manager Jim Griffin.
“The payment will be around $17,000 a year, and the operating budget for the town of Hodgdon is going to be about $72,000, which comes in to about $89,000,” Griffin said. “We paid 95 [thousand dollars] last year.”
The headquarters for the Southern Aroostook EMS will remain in Houlton. Gordon Hagerman of Littleton, chair of the newly formed service, announced in a letter shared with residents Tuesday that the Furniture Floors North store building along Access Road in Houlton would serve as the central location.
The need to keep the ambulance service in Houlton comes from the fact that two of the towns involved, Littleton and Monticello, are north of Houlton, while the remaining towns are located either to the south or west of the town.
“We have settled on a building that is centered as closely as we could that we hope is to everyone’s approval,” Hagerman said in the letter. “We are on a tight schedule to get everything done and up and running before January 1st, but believe it is possible.”
The towns’ contract with the town of Houlton expires at the end of the year.
The combined budget for 2021 fiscal year for the Southern Aroostook EMS to get started is $1.1 million, with the $240,000 Hodgdon residents voted to borrow contributing to their share of the budget. The amount paid by each town is relative to the population, with the smallest town, Hammond, contributing only $21,000.
The budget for 2022, when the towns would officially switch over and begin generating income from the service, is estimated at $617,000.
In addition to Hodgdon, the other towns involved in the new service are Amity, Hammond, Hodgdon, Linneus, Littleton, Ludlow, Merrill, Monticello, New Limerick, Smyrna and Oakfield.