Woodland officials discuss meeting with other towns affected by EMS rate increase

4 years ago

WOODLAND, Maine — Woodland officials have discussed holding one or more meetings with other towns affected by Caribou’s higher cost contracts for EMS and fire service to figure out how to negotiate what they consider a fairer deal.


Through the new proposal, which is based on each town’s population, Woodland would pay $128,875 annually for fire and ambulance services. Last year, the town paid $78,000.

Officials in Caribou cited the costs of running the fire and ambulance department — roughly $2.7 million annually — renovation and maintenance costs on equipment, and shrinking reimbursements from patients who have federal and state insurance as reasons for the sudden increase.

Towns, which were formerly charged $11.50 per capita for EMS services, will be charged $100 per capita in 2020, and were originally given only one month to make a decision regarding the new contract. 

Caribou has since moved this deadline to March 31 in order to give officials time to draft warrants for special town meetings or elections.

The city provided towns with three options: to pay $500 per call with the possibility of long wait times if crews are busy; to pay $100 per capita for EMS services; or to pay $125 per capita for both fire and EMS.

During Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting in Woodland, one resident said he hopes the town is not making a decision yet, and suggested that selectmen consider other options beyond the three being offered.

He added that Woodland could possibly guarantee Caribou a set price for the year, such as $35,000 or $40,000, in addition to paying $500 per call, which would provide Caribou with more revenues while not significantly increasing Woodland’s mill rate.

Selectman Carl Grant said, at this point, his recommendation would be to put the most expensive option on the warrant, as the total amount of money raised can be lowered, but not increased, during a town meeting.

Grant said the warrant for the meeting would likely not be finished until the first week of March. 

The selectman clarified that this recommendation would solely be made so the town has all options available, not because he agrees with paying $125 per capita for fire and EMS services.

“It’s highway robbery,” the resident added.

“It is,” said selectman Will Barnum, who added that he also has issues with the money going toward fire hydrants and a pellet boiler owned by Caribou.

Selectman Tom Drew suggested holding meetings with other towns affected by the increase so they can negotiate with Caribou, and Barnum agreed.

“I think if we come together with the selectpeople of all the affected towns, we might not be able to agree on 100 percent of things, but I think we can all at least agree that this is ignorant,” Barnum said. “Even if we agreed to a contract based on $500 per call, they are still making money hand over fist.”

Drew said that, in his opinion, the word “if” should not be included in any contract, such as the first option in which Caribou charges $500 per call. If the only alternatives available offer less security to the town, “we must move forward with the full amount because it’s too important an issue to screw around with the word ‘if,’” he said. 

“I’m not going to argue over fire hydrants or the stupid wit of the people who came up with this foolishness, but I think we can probably get that number reduced,” Drew said. 

Drew and Barnum both said they’re willing to meet with other towns as many times as necessary, stressing the importance of the issue.

“I don’t care how many times we have to meet,” Barnum said. “I’m not comfortable signing an ‘if,’ and I don’t feel comfortable signing around $130,000 when we’ve been paying around $77 for years, which was still too much in my opinion.”

“Last year they said a 2 percent increase was enough, and now we’re up to about a 1,000 percent increase,” Drew said, referring to the rate of $11.50 per capita jumping up to $100 per capita for EMS services. 

“We need to come somewhere between 2 and 1,000 percent,” he said.

“It’s a small range to work with,” Barnum said.

Woodland’s annual election is scheduled for March 16 and the town meeting is scheduled for March 17.