A year after the towns of Liberty and Montville voted to increase funding to Liberty Ambulance Service and hire on-call emergency medical technicians, the department is still trying to find the right coverage balance.

Since last year, Liberty Ambulance Service has hired four active EMTs who are on call from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the work week. An administrator was also hired, replaced, and now the new administrator is taking applications for someone to replace him.

The year "went all right," according to EMT Chris Birge, Liberty Ambulance Service chief.

The geographic area is unique and has some built-in challenges. "It's low population,"  Birge said, "and it's so far from other ambulance services … they would respond but the wait time would be over an hour."

Since Liberty's longtime certified EMT Edna Mitchell retired in 2017, the two towns have been experimenting with different formulas for coverage throughout the week between hired EMTs and a handful of volunteers.

Finding and recruiting volunteers has always been an issue. Currently there are 12 volunteers with varying degrees of availability, and they cover the night and weekend shifts, Birge said.

According to Emergency Management Director Elise Brown, "The year went really well, despite the challenges."

In addition to finding the right staffing mix of paid EMTs and volunteers, she said the department is looking for ways to be more competitive and retain more recruits and volunteers. To that end, Brown said, the department will be increasing wages.

Birge said the service "is always open for new people" to step in. Each licensed EMT has to undergo two to three months of training, paid for by the ambulance service. A paramedic license has a two-year training program and there are several state-sponsored programs throughout Maine that offer the training.

Ambulance drivers, while equally needed, require less training to get up to speed, he said.

For more information on volunteering or becoming a certified EMT, call Chris Birge at 323-2199.