PACE Paramedic Service Director Robert Hand (left) explains how the ambulance service’s internal communications board works to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins last Friday. Collins visited PACE and Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, following Congressional approval of a $1.6 million federal grant to upgrade PACE’s facility. Collins, U.S. Sen Angus King and U.S. Rep Jared Golden collaborated to sponsor the grant. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

NORWAY — The campaign to upgrade PACE Ambulance Services’ cramped and outdated facility at Stephens Memorial Hospital got a 40% boost after Congress approved a $1.6 million grant through its Community Project Funding program.

The cost to replace the more than 30-year-old building will be $4 million. For its part, SMH began a capital campaign to raise the additional $2.4 million last summer.

The federal grant was sponsored by both of Maine’s U.S. senators Susan Collins and Angus King, as well as Maine’s Second District congressman, Rep. Jared Golden.

In 2021 PACE headquarters was placed high on SMH’s priority list for improvements. The building needs proper ventilation, additional equipment, supplies and storage space, adequate living quarters, and improved meeting and training spaces for staff.

Sen. Collins got a first-hand look at what will be replaced during a tour of PACE and the hospital last Friday.

“It’s pretty snug in here,” PACE Director Robert Hand explained to Collins as they walked through the facility’s main room, which serves as conference, break and communications room, kitchen, library, and equipment storage for the 45-person staff. “During the winter time there are eight people plus me, and three crews on at night.  We share two dorm rooms.”


Talking about the structure, Collins was surprised to hear it was built in 1990, remarking it looked more dated.

“That’s because the interior was built by EMTs,” Hand laughed. “Because at the time, that’s the way we did things.”

The renovated ambulance station will provide sufficient space and modern equipment. Expanded storage will preserve gear and supplies and make it more accessible. In addition, updated living quarters will support a diverse crew which is about 33% female. The new space will provide adequate room for meetings and establish dedicated training space, which often has to be done in the basement.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of Senator Collins, who advocated for this vital project,” said Timothy Ingram, senior director of Operations and Ancillary Services. “This funding will support renovations to the PACE Paramedic Station and ensure these critical services are available to the community when they are needed most.”

PACE Paramedic service covers 438 square miles of area and 18 communities in Oxford County. Owned and operated by Stephens Memorial Hospital as an area EMS service, PACE receives no municipal subsidies. Much of the work PACE does entails back up and support for communities that do not have their own EMS or whose EMS is, at the time of a call, otherwise engaged. In 2021, PACE provided 1,055 health care facility transfers, 2,987 emergency responses to a 911 request, and 4,927 total ambulance runs. Since 2019, total calls for PACE have increased 33%.

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