PERU — Following considerable discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting, the Med-Care Ambulance Service Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve a proposed new ambulance building site, a new architectural building design, and they authorized the Building Committee to seek funding for a $1.7 million project.
That doesn’t mean they’re going right out to immediately start construction after buying land in Mexico, which they have an option to buy from NewPage Inc. paper mill of Rumford.
“We’re still in the studying stage,” Duane Phelps, a Rumford representative, said to Rumford Selectmen Brad Adley, Jeff Sterling, Greg Buccina and Frank DiConzo, and Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia, all of whom attended the meeting at the behest of Rumford representative Stephanie Wilson and Selectman Mark Belanger.
Belanger, another Rumford representative on the Med-Care board, was absent.
After hearing Buccina and DiConzo ask if there was still time for Mexico and Rumford selectmen to seriously talk about consolidating both town’s fire stations into one public safety facility with Med-Care, Mexico Selectman Reggie Arsenault, who also represents Mexico on Med-Care’s board, said he’s been attending such regionalization meetings for nine years.
“The talk goes nowhere,” Arsenault said. “Med-Care has to look at the nine other towns, too, and how it’s going to benefit them.”
Med-Care provides emergency medical response to the towns of Andover, Byron, Canton, Carthage, Dixfield, Hanover, Mexico, Newry, Peru, Roxbury and Rumford.
Med-Care board President Steve Brown, a Carthage selectman, said Med-Care has been receptive to towns like Rumford and Mexico regionalizing fire departments, but Med-Care is about 11 towns and not just two.
“We’ve been providing an essential need for 11 towns, and we’ve waited patiently to see some mergers and it doesn’t really go,” Brown said. “We’re going to have an ambulance service no matter what.”
Med-Care board Treasurer Jim Pulsifer, a Peru selectman, said that when they assembled Med-Care, it involved 11 towns realizing a mutual need and uniting to solve a problem.
The current building has several code violations, is creating health problems, and isn’t big enough to house all of the ambulances.
“We’re not looking right now to fund a new building,” Pulsifer said. “We’re just getting something in line. I think it’s a great idea if you can get the other towns to go along with (merging Rumford and Mexico fire stations), and I’ve encouraged towns that want to regionalize, to do something about it.”
To Rumford selectmen, Phelps said that a new Med-Care building “is a necessity.”
Med-Care Executive Director Dean Milligan said it would take at least three years just to go through the process to merge Rumford and Mexico fire stations.
“The question is: Are the citizens in Rumford going to accept a facility in Mexico? This facility is being designed to accommodate what you’re talking about,” Milligan said.
Adding merged fire departments can be done in phases to the point in the future when everything becomes River Valley Fire and Rescue, Milligan added.
Pulsifer said they are primarily seeking a 40-year loan, which can be paid off earlier, for the project from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program.
They have also scheduled a meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 25, at Med-Care with Maine’s congressional delegation and the USDA to try and work out a better funding solution.
“I hope this will be the driver to do the best for both communities and get us off our duffs,” Buccina said.