After a tense Friday election, Boothbay Harbor voters came together in the Boothbay Region Elementary School gymnasium to pass the rest of the 2019 warrant. The meeting lasted just over 30 minutes. Longtime moderator Ervin Snyder announced it would be his last year doing it.
As in years past, Snyder looked for a motion to bring Articles 6 through 17, mostly housekeeping items, into one package for a vote. Voters did.
Resident Patty Minerich expressed concern over Article 17 to authorize municipal officers to accept and appropriate assets gifted to the town.
“I believe it should exclude any type of real estate,” said Minerich. “With real estate comes tremendous obligation in both near term and long term and I think that's something the voters should have a say in.”
Articles 6 through 17 passed, with a corner of the assembly audibly opposed.
“In the opinion of the moderator, that vote passes and those articles are adopted,” Snyder said.
Articles 18 through 22 each passed separately with ease. Article 19 brought attention to the contract services item, up $48,000 from last year. Town Manager Tom Woodin explained most of the extra cost is due to spending related to footbridge and Fish Pier upgrades.
Article 23 brought forth concern about the difference between selectmen and budget committee recommendations for Boothbay Region Ambulance Service appropriations. While the selectmen pushed forward the BRAS’s request of $295,795, the budget committee recommended only $276,000.
Before any discussion, a motion to accept the budget committee's recommendation was made and seconded. Committee chair Peggy Splaine said the reason for recommending less than BRAS was requesting was purely due to policy guidelines which prevent the committee from recommending increases of more than 20%. Splaine said the recommendation should not reflective the committee’s feelings on BRAS.
“I'll just add that going into discussion on the ambulance board, it was about 10% higher than the select board recommended,” said outgoing selectman and BRAS board member Russ Hoffman. “So, there was significant discussion at our ambulance board meetings at what could be done to reduce the request. The increase over last year is largely due to our efforts to attract necessary talent in the paramedic and EMT areas and to compete with other ambulance services, frankly …”
President of the Board of Directors for BRAS, Robbie Ham, went into further detail. Ham said reasons for the increase include moving two per diem shifts to full time and the rising cost of fuel and travel, but the brunt comes from competition.
“The face of EMS in Maine is changing. There aren't enough paramedics and EMT's. That’s forcing the bigger cities with bigger services to just throw money to get competent employees … (This) just gets us to the median rate of what the services around us are paying for hourly wages.”
Voters amended the motion to the amount selectmen recommended. The amendment and subsequent vote each passed with one vote in opposition.