Northern Light Medical Transport will move into its new Main Street location this year. Councilors reluctantly but unanimously approved a three-year emergency medical services agreement with the group on May 17. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY ANNE BERLEANT

City Council signs EMS agreement, approves school budget

ELLSWORTH — Councilors unanimously approved on May 17 a three-year emergency medical services agreement with Northern Light Medical Transport (NLMT) but with reluctance because of concerns over ambulance coverage within the city and the lack of specific details of the services to be provided.

“I’ll hold my nose while I vote for it,” Councilor Marc Blanchette said.

The discussion and vote on signing the agreement had been tabled since December, as City Manager Glenn Moshier worked to negotiate the terms. However, NLMT held to its standard agreement used with other municipalities in the county. 

The agreement specifies that an ambulance “shall respond promptly and efficiently to all calls for service originating within the service area of the municipality.” With two ambulances covering Hancock County, both could be called out to outlying towns or be busy transporting a patient between facilities, leaving a wait for any in-city call, Councilor Michelle Kaplan pointed out.

Still, she voted to approve the contract.

“This just buys us time to look into what we can do to protect the city of Ellsworth,” she said. All seven councilors appeared in agreement that a city-owned-and-operated service is the future for Ellsworth.

Chairman Dale Hamilton also requested that an NLMT representative appear quarterly before the council “to explain how they’re meeting the contract.”

Councilors also approved a $23,437,190 school budget for 2021-22 as presented by Superintendent Dan Higgins, plus $243,767 for the adult education program. However, a late-afternoon announcement from Governor Janet Mills proposing to increase the state share of primary education costs to 55 percent means the possibility that the district will receive a larger subsidy than the $4.32 million set in Augusta earlier this year. Mills’ proposal matches the will of voters, who in 2003 approved a citizen-led referendum measure mandating state education funding at 55 percent of the cost of essential services.

Because the Legislature has to approve the new subsidy level and that won’t happen until June, councilors also approved a provision that if the state allocation is increased, the School Board is authorized to increase school expenditures, decrease the local appropriation and/or add to reserve accounts like special education.

“If the numbers come to pass, we’re talking a pretty significant amount of money,” Higgins told councilors. “There has to be a conversation” with the council on how the additional funds would be used. Councilors agreed, and unanimously approved the provision.

Among other business, councilors also discussed downtown summer parking and repurposing some of that space for outdoor dining. Moshier outlined plans to close the Franklin Street extension between Elizabeth’s and the former J&B Atlantic building from May 24 to Sept. 7, along with closing two parking spaces in front of Provender’s to allow safe sidewalk dining and a dedicated space for pick-ups at Finn’s. 

“We’re still on the fringe of the pandemic and it’s a good way to support businesses,” Hamilton said. 

A discussion of moving the council meeting to 6 p.m. was tabled in order to receive community feedback to the proposed change.

Anne Berleant

Anne Berleant

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Anne Berleant covers news and features in Ellsworth, Mariaville, Otis, Amherst, Aurora, Great Pond and Osborn. When not reporting, find her hiking local trails, reading or watching professional tennis. Email her at [email protected]

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