SEARSPORT — The Select Board appointed town resident and parent Wendi Hamel to the Regional School Unit 20 Board of Directors Nov. 9. Hamel, along with Ruth Fethke, who was appointed Oct. 5, and RSU 20 Board Chairman Anthony Bagley, will represent Searsport on the school board.

The interim appointment comes after Searsport Town Manager James Gillway announced that Dave Walsh and Josh McFarlin, both directors for Searsport, had resigned for personal reasons at the Oct. 8 Select Board meeting.

Former school board director, parent and lifelong Searsport resident Gerry French also notified the Select Board of his interest in the board seat. French said he served as vice chairman of the school board in 2019, but stepped down when his son went through a difficult surgery.

Hamel said her family has been living in Searsport since 2016 and with two children in the school system, felt she would be a good candidate to sit on the board. “My youngest is autistic, so I feel I could bring a lot to the school board for our children with special needs, and to the families with children with special needs,” she said.

She said she has been attending the school board meetings “faithfully” and typically only sees one or two parents there. “I really wish more parents would come to the school board meetings,” she added.

The Select Board voted 5 to 0 to appoint Hamel to the school board. Gillway said the appointment to fill the position ends in June, but elections will be held in March, and encouraged both French and Hamel to run again then.

Board Vice Chairman Mark Bradstreet said he was thankful for the two school board applicants. “It says to me there are people in the community that are interested in getting involved in our town.”

In other business, Gillway asked the Select Board for authorization to develop a policy for Fire Department cost recovery. For years, he said, the town has been trying to see if the Fire Department could recoup costs when responding to emergencies such as fires or accidents.

It would involve setting up a billing and restitution policy, he said. Previous discussions about Fire Department cost recovery, Gillway said, got “a little heated” discussing whether it could or could not be done.

Many towns in Central Maine, he said, are currently using the company Cost Recover to do their billing. Gillway said the town uses the same company for Searsport Ambulance Service billing. “I personally think it is a great idea,” he said. “We are leaving money on the table, especially when it comes to motor vehicle accidents, because insurance companies pay and we are not burdening the taxpayer.”

Gillway said he hopes the new policy will not discourage anyone from calling emergency services. “The last thing I want to do is scare someone from calling the Fire Department because they are going to get a bill,” he said.

“If we don’t recoup, we don’t recoup,” Gillway said. “It’s mostly accidents, and that takes up a lot of our time.”

In closing, Gillway said Nov. 9 was Adrian Stone’s last day as the town’s ambulance director. “It’s been a pleasure working with him, he’s done a heck of a lot of work advancing paramedics and EMS, not only in Searsport, but for the region as a trainer,” he said. “I do appreciate all he’s done all these years.”

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