HARRISON — A unanimous vote cast by Harrison selectmen two weeks ago on ambulance services will now go before townspeople for an “endorsement” at the June 9 town meeting.
At the April 20 meeting, a 90-minute discussion ended when all five selectmen voted in favor of dividing the town into two districts to be served by Pace and United ambulance services.
At Tuesday night’s selectmen’s meeting, the first item on the agenda was “Ambulance Service – Warrant Article – Consideration.”
No explanation was given by the town manager or the selectmen on why the issue had been placed on the agenda. Chairman Bill Winslow read the agenda item, then asked for a motion.
Selectman Dan Schorr made a motion “to put our decision from the last meeting on a warrant article for town meeting endorsement.”
Pace has been the only ambulance service since 1993. However, a presentation at the April 20 meeting by Cumberland County Emergency Communications Director Bill Holmes apparently convinced selectmen that response time could be improved by using both services.
Selectman Lisa Villa asked, “Dan wants to rescind the 5-nothing vote?”
“The last meeting turned into a public hearing, with no notice,” Schorr said. “This has divided the town.
“The only people who complained were the Pace employees and their family members,” Villa said.
“You’re out of order,” Winslow said.
“This is a public safety issue,” Villa said. “This is not a popular opinion vote. Highly trained people have told us this is the right thing to do for the town.” Villa began to explain something that happened at the elementary school recently, but Winslow ruled her out of order again.
Schorr’s motion then passed 3-2. Villa argued that the selectmen would have to rescind their previous vote, but was again ruled out of order by the chairman.
“I want to know why I can’t speak about this,” Villa said.
Winslow said he was going to move on to the next agenda item. The discussion on the ambulance issue lasted about 10 minutes. It is unclear whether the selectmen’s decision from two weeks ago will stand until the town meeting vote, or whether the status of ambulance service will revert to the way it was before the vote was taken two weeks ago. At the April 20 meeting, Holmes made it clear that patients can request the hospital they want to be taken to, regardless of which ambulance service arrives.
In other business, the selectmen voted 4-1, with Schorr opposed, to go with a different health benefit plan for the town’s 14 employees. The plan will not cost the taxpayers as much money as the current plan, but will also not provide the same level of benefits employees have now. Winslow read a letter from a town employee who argued that town employees “should not have to take a hit” because the town is trying to cut the budget.
This prompted Selectman Eddie Rolfe to talk about how government expenses, in Harrison and all the way to the federal level, just keep increasing every year.
“This town has been doing nothing but rubber stamping, year after year,” he said. “It’s got to stop. We need accountability and creativity. We cannot run this town like the federal government and just throw money at it.”