After three years of seeing no increase in rates, Searsport residents will now be paying a bit more when and if they need an ambulance to come to their home.

The Searsport Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to approve the rate increases that Ambulance Service Director Cory Morse proposed during his presentation Tuesday night, April 16.

Morse said he started examining the service's current rates this year to make sure the billing process is in accordance with what Medicare allows and to bring the local rates more in line with what neighboring services are charging.

Morse suggested the overall service rate increase by 1.2 percent, and to also begin charging $2 per "loaded mile" — which Morse said would cover the cost of transporting a patient from Searsport to a hospital. For example, Morse said, a patient transport from Searsport to Waldo County General Hospital would be charged $14 to cover the cost of the seven-mile trip.

Another change, said Morse, will mean a $100 fee for anyone who calls an ambulance and is treated at their home but not transported to a hospital.

"It's something more and more ambulances across the state are charging for," said Morse. "It's just to recoup what we spend."

During his discussion about the rate increases, Morse also encouraged the Board to consider adding more first responders to the North Searsport area. Morse said having people who are trained in first aid, CPR and comfort care could make a big difference to a patient who is awaiting the arrival of an ambulance. He also said a first responder can often give ambulance attendants a better idea of what the patient is experiencing for symptoms, which makes it easier for emergency medical service personnel to treat the patient when they arrive.

"It's something that's been kind of in the back of my mind over the last couple of years," said Morse.

Morse said the Searsport Ambulance Service could host the training, which costs about $500 per person. The state mandates that there must be at least 10 people signed up for the class before Morse can move ahead with the course.

Selectman Dick Desmarais said he supported the idea because first responders are often the next generation of local emergency medical technicians.

"This is an incubator for the system," said Desmarais.

Selectman Doug Norman asked Morse if his idea was dependent on whether the town votes in favor of building a new North Fire Station, but Morse said having first responders in the area would be helpful with or without the new station.

Selectman Meredith Ares asked Morse if the first responders would have emergency equipment with them most of the time. Morse said they would likely have items like oxygen masks and gloves, and would have access to the North Station in case they needed equipment like defibrillators.

In other news, resident Don Garrold read a letter he prepared for the Board regarding his take on the decision of Colorado-based DCP Midstream to withdraw its application to build a 22.7-million-gallon liquefied petroleum gas tank at Mack Point. The company announced that decision April 2, and the Planning Board subsequently denied the application for several reasons, including health, safety and the company's use of the commercial zone for a portion of the industrial facility.

Garrold stated that residents at the 2012 annual town meeting voted nearly two to one against a moratorium that would have put the DCP proposal and other projects like it on hold for six months. That, he said, demonstrated there was a fair portion of residents who were in support of bringing industry to town.

He also said he felt the town gave more weight to those who opposed the project.

"Presently there is a vocal minority enjoying undue influence on our local government," said Garrold, who also said he was concerned about the "vocal minority's ability to stifle" industrial and marine development in town.

"Our government did little to help this developer," said Garrold.

Garrold concluded by saying he wanted to form a group of people who, like him, are interested in showing support for industrial development in Searsport. He also said he created bumper stickers that say, "Searsport, Maine. Incorporated in 1845. Still a Seaport."

Garrold said he would provide a bumper sticker to anyone who expressed an interest in displaying it.