County communities to decide on future of fire and EMS services

4 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine — Population decline, the closure of Crown Ambulance and mandated reimbursements below the cost of operating an ambulance service have led the city of Caribou to propose fire and EMS services to outside towns at a significantly increased rate in order to continue future operations.


Surrounding towns now have until March 31 to decide whether to continue receiving services for a fee of $100 per capita — as opposed to the former $11.50 per capita — or to pay $500 per call with the possibility of longer wait times. 

Both Caswell and Limestone have decided to move forward and continue to receive EMS services at the increased rate through Caribou, while Washburn and Wade have agreed to receive ambulance services from Presque Isle at a rate of $11.50 per capita.

At a special town meeting on Jan. 13, 30 out of 31 Stockholm residents voted in favor of moving forward with the new proposal. Selectman Dave Smith said the increase would bring the town’s annual payment from $3,000 to $24,600.

The town of Woodland held a public hearing on the matter, but no formal decisions had been made by Jan. 23. Woodland selectmen recently discussed holding meetings with surrounding towns also affected by the increase to discuss the best option moving forward. 

New Sweden will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, in the town office.

Perham is looking at “a number of different proposals that don’t involve Caribou,” according to selectman John Rasmussen.

Rasmussen has also filed a Freedom of Access Act request with the city of Caribou, as many discussions concerning the increase were held in a private executive session under a statute relating to “publicly held property or economic development only if premature disclosures of the information would prejudice the competitive or bargaining position of the body or agency.”

In his request, Rasmsussen argued that this statute does not cover a discussion related to fire and ambulance services. The city responded by stating that it will provide any public records concerning discussion of fire and EMS services, but that it would not provide any private or confidential information on the matter. 

The County Commissioners, who are responsible for the budgets of Connor and Madawaska Lake — two unorganized townships affected by the rate increase — will make a decision on EMS service during its meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, in Fort Kent.

County Administrator Ryan Pelletier said the short notice Caribou gave towns regarding the increase will put the county budget in the red, as Caribou operates on a calendar year while the commissioners operate on a fiscal year. Commissioners will not be able to make any additions to the budget until July 1 when the next cycle begins. 

Connor’s annual fee for ambulance coverage will jump from $5,500 to $43,700 and Madawaska Lake’s contract will go from roughly $1,300 annually to approximately $15,000, according to Pelletier.