(From the Lincoln News)
HOWLAND – As emergency service needs in the area increase – needs for ambulance, fire and police – representatives of Howland, Enfield and Lincoln remain dedicated to both optimizing service while saving taxpayer dollars. That was at the core of Tuesday’s meeting of a joint Public Safety Committee in Howland, as officials from Lincoln and Howland discussed recent concerns, as well as ideas for improved service and technology. Enfield and Passadumkeag representatives were also invited but were unable to attend.
Ambulance service was a dominant subject, as Howland is continuing to grow its service and Lincoln, who through a contract with East Millinocket, provides service to many of the surrounding areas. Last month, Howland purchased a third engine for the department as it has now exceeded 488 calls for the year between fire service and EMS response, on a pace to eclipse last year’s 600 total calls.
“(The fire and ambulance department’s) Payroll and all their insurances…is all being covered by revenues from the ambulance service,” Howland Town Manager David Wilson said. “It is amazing something like that is not being taken from taxation anymore.”
The re-invention of the town’s department has also created jobs locally, as with a growing service, more paramedics and other emergency technicians are needed.
The potential for revenue increases is also an area Lincoln will be exploring for when the two years remaining on its contract with East Millinocket expires.
“I would like to almost hit a reset button (with Lincoln),” Howland Fire Chief Josh McNally said. “What can we do to increase relations with Lincoln, both on the fire side and then can we go in to a joint EMS venture. “What can we do to make us to team build, to work closer than what we are right now.”
Both McNally and Lincoln Public Safety Director Dan Summers said the fire departments work well together. Currently, Howland is first response for mutual aid to Lincoln, and both towns split coverage neighboring Enfield.
“You’ve got two ideas for providing EMS service for the town of Lincoln,” Summers said. “I think it’s very important for the community to get that information.”
“I think it’s to a point where Josh and I can certainly work together (on either proposal.”
Summers said that the existing contract with East Millinocket is important to townspeople, and it wouldn’t be good for business for a town to back out of a contract. He also said there are risks that needed to be assessed, as there are with any proposal.
Police protection and the area’s growing drug problem was also discussed. Howland currently does not have a department and relies on a limited-coverage contract with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office. Recently, the town tied 91-91 on forming a 40-hour department, either staffed by a Howland employed officer or by a contract with the sheriff.
Wilson said residents who supported the idea were in favor of the town forming its own department. He said he did not want to re-introduce the idea for fear of the perception he was “forcing it down people’s throats” but residents could bring it forth to the board as a citizens initiative.