Meeting Thursday, April 28 to finalize the warrant for the annual town meeting, the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen reversed its previous decision to present two Wiscasset Ambulance Service budgets to voters.
Voters will now be presented with one budget for the ambulance service in the amount of $478,250, which covers the cost for full-time station coverage. Wording on the warrant reinitiated conversation on the board about the ambulance budget.
The initial warrant article presented the two budget amounts and instructed voters to vote for only one. Chair Ben Rines and Selectman Jeff Slack took issue with the wording of the warrant article, which did not give voters the ability to say no to the budget.
“This isn’t honest,” Slack said. “It shouldn’t be one or the other. People should have the opportunity to vote no.”
Selectman Judy Colby disagreed, saying a no vote on the ambulance budget would mean the end of the service. “You’re going to eliminate (emergency medical services),” Colby said. “That’s wrong and foolish.”
After lengthy discussion of either separating the budget options into two warrant articles or adding a third option in the amount of zero, selectmen voted unanimously to move forward with one figure, $478,250.
In addition to the department budget, the Wiscasset Ambulance Service is requesting two capital-improvement expenditures: $14,000 for two refurbished power cots, and $38,000 to go toward the installation of a new ventilation system for the fire department and ambulance service.
In 2015, voters were asked in a non-binding referendum question if the town should discontinue its ambulance service and outsource the work to a private company. Voters said no by a wide margin; however, the number they were presented at the time was the current year’s budget of $286,285, Slack said.
If the number presented was the proposed budget, the vote may have gone very differently, Slack said.
“Is there enough support in the community to have an ambulance service?” recently hired Wiscasset Ambulance Service Director Toby Martin said to selectmen. “People supported it last year; do they still value the same option? That’s a question I have for you.”
If the ambulance service budget is voted down, the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen will have about two weeks before the end of the fiscal year to propose a different option.