HARPSWELL — The town became a little safer on Monday, thanks to the new presence of an emergency vehicle and a card-carrying paramedic at the Town Office.
The long-awaited switch to contracted emergency services with Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick came after about a year of planning that culminated with a Town Meeting vote for $123,000 in funding for the plan.
David Hudson, director of paramedic services at Mid Coast, said on Wednesday that the first few days went well.
“The town staff has been absolutely wonderful,” he said. “I was there for the first shift, and someone from each ambulance service came over to welcome me there. We’ve been setting up the office and setting up some protocols.”
Hudson said there were no medical emergency calls yet, although the paramedic did respond with other emergency personnel to calls about a downed wire and a carbon monoxide alarm.
With fewer volunteers available, it has been increasingly difficult for the town’s three volunteer fire departments to provide around-the-clock emergency medical coverage.
Under the five-year contract, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Selectmen on April 26, Mid Coast will provide the services from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, a time period when many volunteers are at work.
The cost for the first year of the contract is $123,000; the majority of that amount, about $96,000, will go to personnel costs associated with the paramedic. Another $17,000 will cover the capital costs of the vehicle and emergency medical equipment. The remainder will be spent on operating expenses, such as uniforms, supplies, and vehicle costs.
“They’re not in this to make money,” Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said. “This is basically to cover their costs in providing the service.”
Many of the details of the coverage have the potential to change as the new arrangement progresses.
The funding levels for years two through five of the contract will be set annually; Eiane said that she doesn’t think there would be a significant shift, unless the town decides to change the level of coverage.
The ambulance is now parked outside the town office, a location that Eiane said is centrally located. But it can’t remain outside forever.
“When we get to the cold weather time frame, we’re going to need a garage,” she said. “If we haven’t completed our garage at that time, they’re going to move it to the vehicle bay at the Orr’s and Bailey Islands Fire Department.”
The location of a specially constructed garage has yet to be decided, Eiane said, but $74,000 in funding has been appropriated.
Eiane said that the land around the town office would be one good option for the garage, but other locations should also be considered.