PERHAM, Maine — The Perham Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to pay half of a $2,500 ambulance bill from the city of Caribou, sending a message that the small town was dissatisfied with its options as it attempts to maintain ambulance services.
Selectmen hoped that paying half the bill would allow them to buy time as they continued negotiations with Caribou and looked at other options from local ambulance services. Caribou had given them an Aug. 14 deadline to take action.
The vote was 2-1, with only Selectman Mark Ehlermann voting against. Ehlermann said he believed the city of Caribou had little legal backing to charge the town for any call that occurred within its borders, pointing out that those calls could occur as a result of an incident involving a non-Perham resident.
Perham had long requested more information about the calls on the $2,500 ambulance bill, but Caribou said that they could only release it to a HIPAA-certified representative. Mayor Mark Goughan was told in a July 20 meeting that Perham had secured such a representative with Perham selectmen, a fact he relayed to Caribou City Manager David Marker during a Caribou council meeting on July 27.
Perham Town Administrator John Hedman said the town had since received an updated bill from Caribou with more details on each call.
Last year, the Caribou City Council raised ambulance rates for surrounding communities from $11.50 per capita to $100 per person, citing shrinking reimbursement rates and cost increases. Caribou officials said the change would help align rates with what Caribou taxpayers had already provided for the service.
Towns serviced by Caribou Fire were given three options: pay $100 per capita for ambulance services, $125 per capita for fire and ambulance services, or a flat $500 per call. The flat rate of $500 per call will be charged if towns don’t choose a plan, Caribou officials said.
Along with other towns serviced by Caribou Fire, Perham criticized the decision because they were given only two weeks before their contracts expired before being informed that they would see a rate several times their last contract.
That deadline had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Perham saying they were unable to convene a meeting addressing the ambulance question with the limitations on gatherings imposed by Gov. Janet Mills’ civil state of emergency.
Caribou provides ambulance coverage for several nearby towns, including Connor Township, Woodland, New Sweden, Lake Township, Westmanland and Stockholm.