April 07, 2020

Corinna ambulance rates may change

CORINNA — The rates for ambulance service may be adjusted in Corinna in the near future as selectmen negotiate with Pittsfield’s Sebasticook Valley Hospital for billing and payroll services.

SVH stepped in a year ago to help the town maintain its ambulance service after Eastland Woolen Mill, the town’s largest industry, closed. SVH took on the billing for the service and employed two of the town’s emergency medical technicians. The arrangement provided new jobs for the formerly part-time EMTs, relieved the town office of billing, and provided an additional ambulance for the area served by SVH.

In the first year of the town’s arrangement with SVH, the operation was “a learning experience” for everyone involved, said Mike Dudzik of SVH.

Dudzik attended the Wednesday night meeting of the Corinna selectmen to discuss a billing policy and the continued sharing of services.

The concern for another year is to develop a fee schedule that adequately funds the service and also provides a reserve account to replace the ambulance. The current ambulance is about 12 years old, according to Alden Bolstridge, ambulance director.

“We’ve got some serious wiring problems,” Bolstridge said, as he also pointed out the structure of the vehicle is deteriorating. Replacement of the ambulance could cost between $73,000 to $77,000 according to initial inquiries, he said.

Replacement plans will be put on hold until the hospital can bring the accounts receivable to an acceptable level. With the new service, a change in computer software, and the lack of a collection policy, more than two-thirds of the service’s 1997 revenues are still uncollected. Part of Dudzik’s purpose in attending Wednesday night was to gain guidelines from the selectmen on a collection policy.

Dudzik said the experience of the past year will ultimately determine how the hospital will be compensated for providing the service. It is likely the cost for the service will be set by a percentage of the revenue, he said.

In conjunction with the ambulance discussion, the board met in executive session with the two EMTs to discuss wages and benefits.

In other business, the board discussed the continuing negotiations with Finova Mortgage Co. on the unpaid personal property taxes from the Eastland Woolen Mill. The mill owed about $90,000 in personal property taxes when it closed. The town sought a court injunction to prevent the mortgage company from removing equipment from the mill last year. The dispute was partially resolved with funds to be set aside to pay the tax when and if it was determined what was owed.

The company offered to settle at half of the original tax. Selectmen refused the offer, and negotiations have continued. The ultimate goal is to avoid a prolonged and costly court battle.

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