PARIS – The Oxford County commissioners expressed concern Tuesday with a substantial increase in the contract price for fire protection in the northernmost part of the county.

The county contracts with the fire department in the town of Rangeley in Franklin County to provide coverage to nine townships. The southernmost township is Township C, near Upton, while the northernmost one is Bowmantown Township, on the Canadian border.

Under the contract, the Rangeley Fire Department provides fire protection for buildings, vehicles and airplanes. In the event of woodland, field or trash fires in the territories, the department would bill the Maine Forest Service.

The contract for the 2009-2010 fiscal year would be $21,467, a 17 percent increase over last year’s total of $18,359. The 2008-2009 fiscal year contract represented a six percent increase over the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Capt. Dennis Marquis of the Rangeley Fire Department said the department’s contract fluctuates based on varying factors in their assessment. Marquis said the department creates a percentage based on the number of structures, year-round population and valuation in each territory they protect.

Commissioner Steve Merrill noted that call volume was not included in the formula, and that the territories had received only rescue calls that the fire department responded to in the past two years.

Marquis said the contract acts as a form of insurance to keep the department prepared for emergency calls. Chief Rudy Davis said the calls include the man hours of each firefighter who responds, as well as equipment costs.

Davis said the department does not bill insurance companies for calls, but the town is considering an ordinance that would do so and reduce the amount of money to be raised through taxes. Davis said there is also a question of whether the bill would apply to taxpayers who help support the department.

“We’re at the point where we’re looking at just billing nonresidents,” said Marquis. “Most of these calls are caused by people who don’t live there.”

Merrill also suggested weighting different portions of the formula differently. Marquis said such an approach could be viable based on the type of calls that occur year to year.

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