City Weighs Options for New Ambulance

By Lura Jackson


Calais is in the process of considering how it will proceed in its replacement of an ambulance for the Calais Fire-EMS department. The department currently has four box ambulances, however, two of them are nearing the end of their effective use. The options were discussed at a joint Public Safety/Finance Committee meeting on Monday, April 23rd.

The four ambulances currently running include Rescue One, a 2006 model with over 205,000 miles, and Rescue Four, a 2008 model with more than 140,000 miles and some issues that will require approximately $6,000 in repairs, according to Fire-EMS Chief Ken Clark. He aims to replace one of the ambulances with a demo model or used box ambulance or to remount one of the existing modules with a new box.

Purchasing a demo model box ambulance with around 10,000 miles logged comes with a minimum cost of $120,000 based on options currently available at Autotronics in Bangor. Remounting an existing module with a new box would cost a minimum of $104,000. Alternatively, Clark said that he recently saw a used ambulance with approximately 33,000 miles on it being sold for $66,000 online, but that it went quickly at that price. Clark requested permission from the joint committees to be able to proceed with making an offer in the event that similar deals come up. With that said, he stated, “It’s very difficult to find one used for under $100,000, and you don’t know how long they’ll last.”

Finance Committee member Marcia Rogers noted that when the issue of purchasing an ambulance was last raised by the department – under former Chief Robert Posick – she was under the impression that a van ambulance was going to be considered. She recounted an experience in which she and members of the ambulance team explored a demo model and subsequently gave it a positive response. A new, fully loaded Mercedes van ambulance costs as much as $90,000, according to Clark. “I know we have a new chief, but I thought that was our plan,” Rogers said.

Clark countered the suggestion based on his preference, incorporating feedback from the city mechanic and his team. “I don’t think they’re a viable option in our case.” Clark noted that Downeast EMS has had a high turnover with their vans. Nearby departments typically use vans for transport rather than for active medical aid as there is not as much room to move around inside them. “They’re not good to work out of,” Clark said. “We’ll have to step out and buy a new box eventually.”

The department currently has just over $75,000 available for a new ambulance, with a comparable amount anticipated to be allotted to that purpose in the next budget season beginning this summer. The department had a positive revenue of $120,000 last year, putting it ahead of its original startup expenditure for the first time.

The joint committee briefly discussed leasing or financing as additional options. Clark said that leasing is not an option as it comes with an added fee of fifty cents per mile accrued. Financing was deliberated more thoroughly, with some committee members in favor of it due to the current low interest rates. However, Mayor Billy Howard opined that he would rather not take out funds when the department has access to a sizable pool of money already.

The committee agreed to recommend to the council that Clark be granted access to the funds on reserve should a used ambulance in reasonable condition come available for purchase. “If nothing comes available in six months, we’ll revisit it,” said committee member Artie Mingo.