MEXICO – With four months remaining before Med-Care Ambulance Service commits to borrowing $2 million for a proposed ambulance station expansion, its director is seeking solidarity among the 17,000 residents of its 11 towns.

Responding to growing controversy from a vocal minority – including Rumford selectmen who publicly stated they oppose the project – Med-Care Director Dean Milligan appealed to the public this week.

“Everybody thinks this (project) is dead in the water, but it’s basically just a speed bump. We have 11 towns to worry about and Rumford is just one of them,” Milligan said early Friday afternoon. “The board and Med-Care management is listening and is paying attention to what is being said throughout the communities and the concerns of the people that have been voiced.”

Topics discussed at Monday’s Med-Care board meeting included referendum-style voting on major capital expenditures, inter-local agreement language, debt-service obligations for the 11 towns within the inter-local agreement (which expires next June) and communities seeking alternative emergency medical services.

Med-Care also pared $400,000 from the project. Of the remaining $2 million, $175,000 is for land, $200,000 is site work and the building itself is estimated at $1.3 million. The remainder is architect, engineering and legal fees.

“This is a critical-service one-story ranch with a metal garage. It isn’t the Taj Mahal,” Milligan said.

“Regionalization requires a delicate balance and requires open-mindedness by all participants. Like pack animals, regionalization must always be for the betterment and well-being of the entire group, not just one individual member of the pack or one individual town,” Milligan said.

Med-Care is currently debt free and owns about $800,000 worth of assets on behalf of its member towns.

“The expense to taxpayers from Med-Care’s budgetary needs – with or without the new facility – is lesser in all 11 towns in most every case than the cost of the other public safety agencies,” Milligan said.

Combined across the 11 towns, taxpayers are paying $1.36 million for fire protection, $1.9 million for police protection, and $208,000 for 24-hour, advanced-life-support emergency medical care.

Additionally, many erroneously believe they’ll be tied into a 30- to 40-year debt because the project will be funded by a 40-year loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Community Facilities at a fixed interest rate of 4.25 percent, Milligan said.

“We have to do 30 years just to qualify for a USDA loan, but we have no intention of waiting 30 years (to pay it off). We’re just doing that to secure a low-interest loan. This company has demonstrated consistently over its 20-year history that it pays off its debts well before terms come up on notes,” Milligan said.

He sees the new facility as an investment in what Med-Care’s taxpayers have already invested.

“This station is a major factor in everyone’s future and the long-term viability of Med-Care, and the overall future development of the entire River Valley region. A solid delivery of emergency medical services is an investment into recruiting and attracting businesses and additional residents into this area to live and work,” he added.

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