Selectmen in 3 Washington County towns seeking other options to improve EMS service, public hearing set for Feb. 16th
MILBRIDGE, Maine (WABI) - Selectmen in the Washington County towns of Milbridge, Cherryfield, and Steuben are seeking other options when it comes to their EMS services.
Milbridge Town Manager and Police Chief, Lewis Pinkham, says they were notified on December 8th by Petit Manan Ambulance Corps that they would be closing due to funding and licensing issues.
The boards of selectmen in those three towns have been working to come up with a long-term solution for ambulance coverage.
They’ve come up with a model they think will reduce costs and response times, which Pinkham says if you are in crisis, that is key.
“We will buy the Cherryfield ambulance so it will all be under one unit, and we will buy one more brand-new unit. The Cherryfield unit will stay housed in Cherryfield, where it is currently, and the new Milbridge unit will be housed here in the Milbridge fire house,” Pinkham explained.
This ambulance service, if approved by town residents, will use the Washington County Regional Communications Center in Machias for dispatch.
The hope is to hire six to eight paramedics/EMTS who will receive a competitive compensation package. Pinkham says he’s already seen some interest, if this passes, so he’s not worried about filling those positions.
“For the on-call people, it would be $17/hr for drivers. The EMTs and paramedics will make $20/hr. Any full-time employee will get full time benefits, whether it’s a driver or an EMT,” he said.
“The crew we have now are dedicated people, and they love helping people who need help,” said Steve McLucas, an EMT for Petit Manan Ambulance Corps.
McLucas has been working for Petit Manan Ambulance Corps, which services Milbridge and Steuben, for 18 years.
He says they have gone to the town and asked for more funding to stay in service but have yet to come to an agreement.
“If you check around all the other towns, they’re getting anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 per town for their ambulance service to help stay in business and run,” said McLucas.
While they continue to respond to calls, he’s not sure how much longer he will if this proposal passes.
“We have been operating on a shoestring for the past three years since the state of Maine raised the minimum wage. We ended up taking a pay cut, and we have not gotten any more money since. There have been quite a few weeks our whole crew has gone without pay to keep us up and running,” he said.
“If they can get funds and keep going, great. That just means more service for all of our residents,” said Pinkham. “It would have been nice if everything could have stayed as good as it was 20 years ago, but things change. This is just another step moving forward.”
A public hearing on this issue is expected to take place Thursday, February 16th, at 6pm at Milbridge Elementary School.
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