HODGDON, Maine — Residents of Hodgdon voted nearly unanimously to jump on board with a group of towns seeking to form their own ambulance service following a special town meeting held to discuss the issue on Monday, April 27.
Residents voted 65 to 1 in order to form the service, authorizing Hodgdon selectmen to join the 12 other towns looking to form a new ambulance service in southern Aroostook.
The move comes after Houlton substantially increased its ambulance rates for this year, with neighboring towns saying they were given no prior notice of the increase. The towns must fulfill their ambulance contract with Houlton for the remainder of this year, but would look into starting their own for the 2022 fiscal year and beyond.
Hodgdon Town Manager Jim Griffin said that, if created, the new ambulance service would have one central location, preferably around the Houlton area. Towns north of Houlton, such as Littleton and Monticello, would also be included as part of the service.
“It’ll be a non-profit, tax-exempt organization,” Griffin said. “We’ve already set up some bylaws to get things started.”
The current Houlton ambulance service rates for the surrounding southern Aroostook towns for this year is $74 per capita, compared to the $16 per capita it charged in 2020. In estimates presented to Hodgdon residents at the special town meeting, the new ambulance service could be as low as $60 per capita and high as $82.
While the towns potentially risk even higher charges in going forward with their own ambulance service, the benefit is that the towns will also be fully in control of the service, according to Paul Stewart, a Hodgdon resident and a former paramedic with the Houlton ambulance service who has led many of the previous discussions regarding the new ambulance formation.
“Who owns the [new] annual service? I’m looking at them right here,” said Stewart to the residents gathered at Hodgdon Middle/High School. “If it doesn’t run right and you don’t like it, we can make some changes to the service.”
The other towns included in the proposed ambulance service are Littleton, Monticello, Smyrna, Amity, Dyer Brook, Cary Plantation, Linneus, Ludlow, Merrill, Hammond, New Limerick and Oakfield.
All towns would contribute to the new southern Aroostook, and Griffin said bylaws could be created to ensure that towns be held to payments towards the new service for a certain period of time.