By Abigail W. Adams
Roland Abbott, director of the Wiscasset Ambulance Service since 2005, announced his resignation Tuesday, Sept. 1. Abbott also resigned from his position as Wiscasset’s emergency management director and health officer. The resignations will take effect Sept. 14.
‘Roland worked (with dedication) for the residents of Wiscasset for many years in many capacities,” Town Manager Marian Anderson said in a press release. ‘He was a valuable part of our team and will be missed.”
Abbott was also a 25-year member of the Wiscasset Fire Department, where he served as assistant chief. ‘I have given a lot of years to the service,” Abbott wrote in his letter of resignation.
‘When I took over as director in 2005, I promised the membership that if my vision as director and the vision of the town or membership was not the same I would step back. That time has come,” Abbott wrote.
The Wiscasset Ambulance Service has been through a lot, Abbott wrote in his letter. ‘I hope the members of the service keep on fighting to keep one of the best small ambulance services in the state,” he wrote.
The Wiscasset Ambulance Service was founded in 1976 to provide emergency medical care and medical transportation for Wiscasset and surrounding communities. The volunteer service handled 806 calls in 2014 alone.
This past spring, however, the ambulance service’s future was in jeopardy as selectmen placed the ambulance services out to bid to determine if it would be more cost-effective to hire a private company than support the ambulance service as a municipal department.
A non-binding opinion poll was also placed on the warrant at Wiscasset’s annual referendum town meeting in June asking voters if the ambulance service should be discontinued in favor of a private company.
Wiscasset received only one bid from a private company with hard numbers for providing ambulance services. North East Mobile Health Services submitted four options for coverage, which ranged from $178,000 to $403,000.
Wiscasset Ambulance Service’s budget for the 2015-2016 fiscal year was $286,288, to be offset with an anticipated $232,000 in revenue. The ambulance service’s budget was overwhelming approved by voters and the non-binding opinion poll asking if the service should be discontinued was overwhelming rejected.
A short time later, however, the Tideview Group released a report of their six-month review of the ambulance service, which found in-fighting and a lack of unified leadership to be major impediments to the ambulance service’s future.
The Tideview Group was hired in January to review the ambulance service at the request of its membership, Anderson previously said. Since the release of the report, the ambulance service has worked to institute policies and procedures at the organization, improve volunteer recruitment and retention, and develop a vision and mission to guide the department into the future.
According to Abbott’s July report to Wiscasset, the service added four new members for a total of 26 members on the active roster. The service also restructured and increased training.
Previously the service had two deputy directors, but it has reorganized to a new structure with only one, Wendy Williams, whose main responsibility was quality assurance. Mark Webber, formerly a deputy director, became a training coordinator with Tanya Bailey. Training coordination requires more than one person due to increased training at the department.
The Wiscasset Ambulance Service was also in the process of organizing a basic emergency medical technician class in Wiscasset in the fall.
‘The service went through a difficult couple of years but has come out the other side stronger and more committed to providing excellent patient care for Wiscasset and the surrounding communities,” Abbott wrote in his July report.
Anderson described Abbott as ‘a true public servant” in the press release announcing his resignation. ‘On behalf of the town of Wiscasset, let us all express our thanks to Roland,” Anderson wrote.
Neither Abbott nor a representative from the ambulance service could be reached for comment as of this posting.