Milford has paid $30,500 in ambulance service fees to the city of Old Town, settling a lawsuit that the city brought against its neighbor last summer.
The suit, which Old Town filed in Penobscot Superior Court in August 2022, alleged that Milford failed to pay the city $41,369.37 for ambulance services it provided to the town in 2021. Old Town sued Milford to recover those costs and for breaching its contract.
The parties went to mediation, which was cordial, said Roger Huber, a Bangor lawyer whose firm represented Milford. It was a pleasure to deal with communities that simply wanted to find the right answer and come to a resolution, he said.
“I think the parties just wanted to understand exactly what their responsibilities were,” he said. “There was some confusion in terms of when things were due and for what.”
Dan Pileggi, an Ellsworth lawyer who represented Old Town, did not provide details of the settlement, but he noted the communities have a long history of working together and easily reached an agreement.
Milford and Old Town approved and signed the agreement Feb. 7 and Feb. 21, respectively, Huber said.
The lawsuit was part of a larger disagreement between the two communities about ambulance services, and regional efforts have been discussed. Milford residents approved the town’s own ambulance service in November 2021, hoping to provide aid faster after an increase in emergency calls left Old Town’s crews stretched thin. But even as the neighbors have gone their separate ways, questions and some problems remain for the small communities that count on them for ambulance services.
The latest example is Greenfield Township. Penobscot County Commissioners decided during a meeting last week that the unorganized territory would accept Milford’s offer to provide ambulance services, which would cost $10,000 a year.
Greenfield contracts with Old Town for these services, and a new contract of just more than $23,380 was supposed to start July 1, George Buswell, Penobscot County’s unorganized territories director, told commissioners.
The move would save about $13,000 a year and makes sense because Milford has provided fire services to Greenfield for years, Buswell said.
But it means the communities contracted with Old Town — unorganized territory Argyle, for example — would end up paying more because there would be fewer of them involved, Buswell said.
Old Town has a paramedic on board 98 percent of the time, but in Milford, it’s more like 50-something percent of the time because the town is only licensed to transport patients for basic life support calls. That could mean there’s a chance people could receive services of slightly lesser quality, he said. Milford relies on Orono for help with calls requiring more advanced care.
Old Town, Orono, Veazie and other communities are discussing a regional ambulance service, Buswell said. “That’s definitely the future,” County Administrator Scott Adkins pointed out Tuesday.
Scott Wilcox, Old Town’s public safety director, has acknowledged concerns around rising costs for the services. Last year, they were a result of the city having to staff for another shift and its inability to recoup enough costs from patients’ insurers and past debts from those who were taken to the hospital.
“I think the best example right now of advancing that is the Howland area,” he said. “They are really putting something together. It’s a struggle because everybody says they want to take care of their own town and nobody wants to give up power. It’s not only driven by cost. It’s also been driven by no personnel lately.”
Bangor Daily News reporter Sawyer Loftus contributed to this story.