This Election Day, Montville residents will vote on whether to appropriate additional funds to help pay for the Liberty Ambulance, which serves both towns.

At the 2019 annual town meeting, residents approved spending $51,000 for the bare-minimum service of keeping two people at the station per diem from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, with any night or weekend calls answered by volunteers.

The article as written stipulated that it was "contingent upon Liberty approval of the same article."  A week later, at the 2019 Liberty town meeting, voters there approved spending $71,000 for an extended ambulance service providing seven days a week 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. coverage.

Since Montville is operating on last year’s budget because the annual town meeting was not possible in spring, the same $51,000 was appropriated for 2020.

Liberty Fire Chief Bill Gillespie, in a conversation with The Republican Journal Oct.16, said he was pleased the topic was being discussed and will be voted on at a special town meeting Nov. 3, but expressed concern over the explanation of the ballot that was sent to all Montville residents.

“It’s a little confusing,” he said, and to add to the ambiguity, the Montville Budget Committee recommends voting no, while the selectmen say yes.

“We are just trying to keep a service that is pretty vital,” Gillespie said. “I wanted to clarify, this wasn’t an arbitrary increase.”

Gillespie said the ambulance service draws from a pool of per-diem personnel who provide service across the state. The local community is competing against other communities that offer similar or better-paying opportunities. “We’re just trying to stay competitive,” he said.

As it is now, he said, the ambulance revenue is picking up more of the costs to make up the difference between the towns, and as a result, no money is being funneled into an ambulance reserve account to replace the vehicle when it becomes obsolete.

There are several license-level positions with varying degrees of pay, including a driver, $13/hour; basic EMT, $15/hour; advanced EMT, $17/hour; and paramedic, $19/hour.

The budget, Gillespie said, is based on two advanced EMT attendants, which works out to be approximately $140,000 a year, or roughly $70,000 per town. Similarly, a basic EMT and driver would be $115,000 a year.

At an informational hearing Oct. 19, Gillespie said the increase in minimum wage “worked against us,” with the ambulance service having to increase wages to be more competitive.

He said the agency is applying for training grants, available through the state, to help increase the number of licensed technicians. Anyone who is interested can attend the mostly virtual training sessions, he said, and, “hopefully at the next town meeting we will have a larger roster.”

Two other information meetings are planned for Oct. 26 starting at 6 p.m. at the Montville Town House and a Zoom hearing is scheduled for Oct. 28, also at 6 p.m. Anyone wishing to find out more about the four articles on the ballot should attend one of these meetings. Contact the selectmen's office at ​342-5543 for information on attending the meeting online.