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Concerns about emergency response prompt Peaks Island public forums

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Concerns about emergency response prompt Peaks Island public forums

PORTLAND — The Peaks Island Council will hold a series of meetings during the next several weeks to discuss safety concerns of islanders and potential resolutions.

Island resident Julie Fisher Melton, a group facilitator, has offered to run the meetings, Island Councilor Lynne Richard said.

Residents have been concerned about what they say is a lack of police, fire and emergency medical personnel stationed on the island.

During the past 13 months there have been a couple of emergency situations on the island when there has only been one police officer on duty and islanders have had to help out. In a December 2008 incident, a resident had to be recruited to drive an ambulance.

"We've also had a couple of fires that have raised concerns," Richard said.

While there are some fire volunteers on the island, professional firefighters are stationed on the mainland and have to ride to Peaks on a boat. Richard said a possible solution is to train island residents for fire and rescue situations.

Members of the Island Council went to the City Council Public Safety Committee recently to discuss their concerns, including having only one police officer on the island between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Richard said that while the committee was receptive, no solution was offered.

"We did discuss undertaking a study of island safety," Richard said. "They weren't sure how to approach that."

But a few weeks ago, a conversation with Melton led to councilors organizing a series of four meetings.

The first two will be of a small working group that Richard said should include fire and medical professionals. Island Senior Lead Officer Rob Lauterbach plans to take part in the forums and said he hopes to be able to offer advice.

"I definitely feel like I'm in tune with their concerns," Lauterbach said. He added that while he is there to help, decisions about changes to public safety policies are made by supervisors.

After pinpointing major concerns and establishing a framework for discussion, the final two meetings will be public forums where islanders will be invited to share their safety concerns and possible solutions.

Those public forums are scheduled for Feb. 24 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and March 6 from 9 a.m. to noon at the community center.

The council plans to then produce a report for the city's Public Safety Committee.

"We do recognize that this is a very tough budget year," Richard said. "But, you have to set priorities."

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net