The Jefferson Board of Selectmen is concerned the town may not have the money to pay Waldoboro Emergency Medical Services for its ambulance service to the town during the first two weeks of January, according to Selectman Jigger Clark.
Waldoboro EMS agreed to provide the service temporarily between Jan. 1 and Jan. 14 to give the town of Jefferson time to decide whether it wanted to continue contracting for ambulance service in its new budget year.
Pay increases and benefit offerings for EMS workers triggered an increase in budget costs for towns receiving EMS services from Waldoboro, and Jefferson selectmen are pressuring Waldoboro town staff for more information before signing on to the new cost of $110,000, up from about $7,000 the previous year.
The town of Jefferson is hosting an open meeting on the question of ambulance services at 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 14, in the gym at the Jefferson Village School. Residents have the opportunity to discuss and vote on whether to accept the new budget cost of $55,060 for the first six months of EMS service.
If the motion fails, Jefferson will need to pay the town of Waldoboro for its EMS service during the two-week grace period in early January, but the town does not know where it can or will pull the money from. Waldoboro EMS will also halt services to Jefferson.
“We don’t have a budget or a line item to grab (EMS calls) from,” Clark said.
The meeting is essential to explain to residents that paying the new budget cost “is our only option,” he said, but waiting to approve the new cost through an open town meeting is “the right thing to do.”
Waldoboro Town Manager Julie Keizer has repeatedly told Jefferson selectmen in public select board meetings and via email that the new budget cost is not up for negotiation, as it is the “cost of the services Waldoboro EMS provides.”
“I understand it’s hard,” she said.
But Jefferson Selectmen Greg Johnston and Pamela Grotton are “not in agreement with the latest terms of the contract,” according to Town Administrator Lynne Barnikow.
“We don’t have anything in our hands in terms of paperwork,” or a budget breakdown, she said.
Jefferson contracts with both Waldoboro and Central Lincoln County ambulance services because its own fire and rescue is not able to provide advanced life support or to transport residents to the hospital. Waldoboro covers roughly two-thirds of Jefferson to the north, and CLC Ambulance covers the southern section of town.
Jefferson selectmen have not approached CLC Ambulance about extending its emergency medical services to the entire town. Even if they did, however, Service Chief Nick Bryant said CLC Ambulance does not have the capacity to provide that service to the entire town of Jefferson. Response times would also be longer than Waldoboro EMS because of the distance between CLC Ambulance and northern Jefferson.
“I think it’s going to pass,” Clark said. “Everyone is for health and safety.”