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Buckfield ambulance choices narrowed
BUCKFIELD — The options for ambulance services in Buckfield appear to have been narrowed to two, with only Med-Care Ambulance and Buckfield Rescue Department still under consideration by a committee that has been charged with making a recommendation to the Buckfield Board of Selectmen.
The committee sent out inquiries to six services earlier this summer to see what other agencies might be able to provide coverage.
"All services responded, but aside from Buckfield Rescue, only one other was in the affirmative," said Cindy Dunn, who chairs the Emergency Services Committee.
In order for a switch to Med-Care to work, other area towns would have to join together to fund a satellite station, said Nick DiMaio, a member of the committee.
"They're a very viable option," said DiMaio, "but it hinges on if we can merge with West Paris, Hartford, and Sumner. That's the only possible scenario."
If that plan were to work, it would probably put two other agencies, Tri-Town Emergency Medical Services and Buckfield Rescue, out of business.
Tri-Town currently services West Paris and half of Sumner, while Buckfield Rescue serves Buckfield, the other half of Sumner, and half of Hartford.
DiMaio said that the focus of the committee should now be on convincing those other communities to explore the possibility of Med-Care.
"I personally invited the selectmen from Hartford and Sumner to attend the [recent committee] meeting, and no one showed up, so I don't know if there is any interest at all right now," he said.
DiMaio said that, in order for a Med-Care switch to become a reality, the people of those towns would have to see the benefits.
"You have to have an open mind," he said. "You have to be a visionary."
The estimated cost of Med-Care would be between $35,000 and $40,000, said Dimaio.
DiMaio, who chairs the town's budget committee, said that the committee is not properly measuring the cost of Buckfield Rescue, which received approximately $50,000 in funding from taxpayers for the current year.
DiMaio said that the true figure is higher.
"[They're] going with the year current, which is really tough because it isn't finished yet," said DiMaio. "You don't know if calls are going to fall or rise; you don't know if an ambulance is going to break down, or fuel costs will change."
DiMaio cited a higher figure of $75,000. Some of the difference, $12,000, is half the cost of a part-time employee who he said is shared between Buckfield Rescue and the town's fire department.
Cindy Dunn, the chair of the committee, said that the committee is not charged with investigating different ways to measure the Buckfield Rescue budget.
"The cost we're using is what's provided to us via the budget," she said. "Buckfield Rescue, like any other department has a gross budget. They have revenues that offset some of that to come up with a net budget. I am, and I believe the other committee members are, working with the net budget that's printed in the town report. Those are the numbers we're working with."
The budget discussion may only be relevant in the event that Sumner, Hartford, and West Paris move forward with the idea of a Med-Care membership.
DiMaio said that a truck would be stationed in Buckfield until a satellite office could be built in Sumner, a process that he said could take from two to four years.
"If the other three towns don't want to do it, there is no feasible alternative to Buckfield Rescue," said DiMaio. "That is the bottom line."
Members of Buckfield's recreation committee have also reached out recently to Hartford and Sumner to explore the idea of sharing services and responsibilities.