ELLSWORTH — City councilors voted 6-1 Monday to move forward with plans to provide space for two ambulances and four staff members from Northern Light Medical Transport (formerly Capital Ambulance).
The vehicles and crew will be housed at the Ellsworth Fire Department this winter.
Councilor Bob Crosthwaite opposed the plan without commenting. He has previously questioned whether ambulance services should be under the umbrella of city government.
“This is akin to moving in with your girlfriend to make sure it’s going to work before you get married,” said Councilor Gary Fortier.
The nine-month pilot would have “zero financial impact on the city,” said Northern Light representative Joe Kellner.
The recently anointed nonprofit would pay utility costs to the city and cover the cost of alterations to the Fire Department. The work would take between two and three weeks, according to a memo to councilors from Ellsworth Fire Chief Richard Tupper.
The city is not taking on any administrative oversight. Northern Light would handle billing.
Physical changes would include adding a closet and four beds, a microwave, a refrigerator, exercise floor mats and recliners. Partition curtains would be used to separate the living spaces. The cost, not including electrical work and a cover for the Fire Department’s rescue boat, is estimated to be just shy of $7,000.
City officials repeated that this was a separate discussion from plans regarding more permanent approach to emergency services.
“This is a temporary stopgap so we have ambulance service and Northern Light has a place to work out of,” said Councilor Dawn Hudson.
Fortier said in an interview after the meeting that there was no hidden meaning behind his living together/marriage analogy.
“We don’t want to sign a five-year contract with these guys and then find out it is not going to work,” said Fortier.
“This gives us the opportunity to try out the relationship, make sure everything works well and then we can make a decision about a permanent relationship. Divorce is expensive.”
The city “doesn’t want to pay for other communities,” said Councilor Dale Hamilton. “For me, it’s a matter of making sure we have EMS [emergency medical services] now. The future is yet to be decided as to what this looks like.”
Ellsworth would have “no obligation” to refer patients to Northern Light or affiliated hospitals under the proposal.
There is no set date for the move, but officials said it will take place before the snow sets in.
“It’s an opportunity for us to learn something,” said Councilor John Moore.