Martin fields budget questions

Posted:  Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 10:00am

Wiscasset’s first budget meeting of the season Tuesday involved public safety and the waterfront. Fire Chief T.J. Merry requested one change from Town Manager Marian Anderson’s budget. He sought another $10,000 for maintenance for the department’s aging fleet. Selectmen asked no questions on it.

When EMS Chief Toby Martin passed out documents for his additional requests, however, the response was different. Martin said because the ambulance being replaced is gasoline-powered, not diesel, the cost for fuel was expected to be $10,530, rather than the $6,900 in the manager’s budget. Another request was to budget for the six percent of billing services for revenue from the partner towns. New client Dresden’s revenue was under-estimated. As of Feb. 27, the revenue from Westport Island, Edgecomb and Dresden was $318,000. The predicted amount was $325,000 for the whole fiscal year. So Martin had a new estimate of $375,000 by June 30. In order to accept those funds, the cost to bill for them would have to be approved.

Chair Judy Colby said the way Martin had prepared his requests, in writing, was “confusing” and she was having trouble understanding his requests. Martin explained again that if the town wanted to accept the revenue, more money would have to be granted for the next fiscal year as well. The board questioned the process of Martin preparing additional numbers, saying Anderson’s budget should be the only numbers the board reviews.

He also asked for an increase in pay for his per diem employees, citing the difficulty he faces hiring people to work as EMTs and paramedics, and the amount of overtime he was obligated to put in every week because paramedics are generally not available from the pool of per diem employees on the weekend.  Martin said a pay increase requested last year was scrapped, and that many other town employees received a raise of two percent. He had requested an increase of a dollar per hour across all three classes of emergency medical technician classes – basic, advanced and paramedic – but the board expressed it did not want to grant the request. In the end, however, it approved a two percent raise for the per diem staff.

Another issue came up. The town had sought proposals without a request for proposal (RFP) process to seek bids for an outside source for EMS services from Lincoln County providers. Only CLC provided a bid. The proposal, which would cost Wiscasset taxpayers $175,000 per year for two years, would also give back a credit for the purchase of the new ambulance at the rate of $50,000 per year. At the end of the contract, according to the proposal, CLC would own any purchased equipment, including the ambulance, outright. 

Martin was concerned that if CLC did not suit the town after the initial two-year proposal, the town would have to start with no equipment if it wanted to reestablish its own EMS service. Anderson said she, Martin and Selectman Bob Blagden, who had requested the review, would look at the proposal and determine if the town should consider it.

Police Chief Jeff Lange identified a couple of line items to address: a $1,350 cost to license certain software, and funding to bring the agency’s body armor current.

The biggest expense for the waterfront was porta-pottie costs. The Waterfront Committee is working toward adding at least one set of permanent seasonal toilets which may offset some of the costs.

Budget talks continue at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 1 with the transfer station and wastewater treatment facility.