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Union approves initial medical services budget

By Christine Simmonds | Feb 17, 2021
Photo by: Christine Simmonds Union Emergency Medical Service Director Jesse Thompson presents the initial budget to the Board of Selectmen Feb. 16.

Union — The Union Board of Selectmen gave initial approval for an increased Emergency Medical Services budget starting in July.

Emergency Medical Service Director Jesse Thompson presented the budget to the board at their Feb. 16 meeting held over Zoom.

The new budget was $477,800, which is $30,000 more than the current budget.

Thompson said he was unable to keep the budget from increasing.

Emergency Medical Service volunteers now receive earned paid leave, which Thompson said had increased the budget.

Vehicle maintenance also increased by $1,000 in this budget. Thompson said this was the town’s third year with this vehicle, so it was requiring more maintenance.

Oxygen costs had also increased. Thompson said the town rents their oxygen tanks, and the COVID-19 pandemic caused an increase in oxygen use.

Another item that caused the budget to increase was a $1 raise in per diem pay. Thompson said this raise would keep the town competitive with other medical services in the midcoast, and would serve to keep workers in the job.

The per diem pay for Emergency Medical Service workers was introduced in 2020 as a way to improve the service and decrease the number of missed calls that had to be passed to other municipalities. Instead of calling workers when needed, staff remain at the office in case of a call.

Thompson said adding the per diem to the budget improved services. Having the employees at the office all the time reduced the time to arrive on the scene for a call and returned the vehicle and employees back to the office faster for the next call.

According to Thompson, Union Emergency Medical Service only missed 13 calls in the past year.

The next steps for approving the budget is for Thompson to present it to Appleton and Washington, where they also provide services, and then to the Union Budget Committee.

The voters then need to approve the budget at the annual town meeting as a warrant item.

The board also discussed options for holding the next town meeting. The 2020 town meeting was held at the Union Fairgrounds, and residents voted from their vehicles.

Town Manager Jay Feyler said he did not think COVID-19 guidelines would allow the meeting to be held indoors, but Gov. Mills would hopefully be issuing guidance soon.

Union has not set a date for their annual town meeting yet.

In other business, the board discussed candidates for the Spirit of America award as well as the town report dedication.

The Spirit of America award is a distinction given by municipalities each year for service to the community.

The town report is an annual document with warrant articles and information about the town. Each year the report is dedicated to a member of the community.

For both awards, the board determined that they would submit nominations to Feyler. The board will vote on the awards at a later meeting.

The board also discussed the vacancy in the Thompson Community Center committee. Jim Justice, who was voted into the committee at the previous board meeting, submitted his resignation letter.

Board chair John Shepard suggested the new member be chosen from the three remaining applicants for the committee. Those applicants are Abraham Knight, Gregory Grotton and Tim Schau.

Board member Bill Lombardi suggested the board perform a ranked choice vote for the three remaining applicants and email votes to Shepard. Lombardi mentioned he wished the board used ranked choice to determine the initial applicants as well.

Lombardi’s suggestion was turned into a motion, and passed by the board. Shepard said the decision for the new committee member would be made in the next few days.

Board member Adam Fuller reported back from the broadband committee that they were in need of new members. Anyone interested in joining the broadband committee should fill out a statement of interest form found on the Union website and submit it to the town office.

Resident John Gibbs also spoke about the broadband committee and the possibility of joining the municipal broadband coalition formed by Camden and Rockport.

Gibbs said Rockland and Hope may be joining this coalition as well, as Camden and Rockport had already done much advanced planning on the matter.

Fuller said the broadband committee would have more information for the board soon.

The next Union Board of Selectmen meeting is March 1 at 6 p.m.

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