Maine residents threaten legal action if town sells land to ambulance service

Neighbors are concerned about noise, speeding ambulances, and added traffic; they claim the sale would violate voter-approved conditions for the land

By Stephen Betts
Bangor Daily News

CAMDEN, Maine — The neighbors of a town-owned property that municipal officials want to sell to the regional ambulance provider have threatened to take legal action if the sale goes forward.

The group calling itself the Committee Concerned about the Ambulance Garage submitted the letter to the town Friday. The group claims the proposed sale would violate voter-approved conditions prohibiting businesses that create significant noise or a dangerous or hazardous environment.

The submission of the letter comes a day after residents met with representatives of the ambulance service.

The ambulance service that wants to build a regional headquarters on a town-owned parcel told the residents it will work with residents to allay their concerns about the impact on the neighborhood.

“We are not looking to be a bad neighbor,” North East Mobile Health Services chief operating officer Butch Russell said Thursday evening before a crowd of about 25 people at the Camden Opera House.

Neighbors, however, continued to voice their concerns about noise, speeding ambulances, and added traffic.

The Select Board is scheduled Tuesday evening to vote on a purchase-and-sales agreement with Northeast. Town Manager Pat Finnigan said if that agreement is approved, the parties have 90 days to perform a due-diligence review of the proposal and then either party could withdraw from the proposed sale.

Town officials announced two weeks ago that they had voted unanimously to begin negotiations with Northeast Mobile Health to sell 2.45 town-owned acres along the Megunticook River that had been the site of the Apollo Tannery. The town has been trying to sell the land for five years and even offered to give it away if a company would come in with jobs.

Russell said while he cannot promise there will be no noise but stressed that sirens are almost never used at night unless there is considerable traffic.

He said there will be added traffic although the volume is not yet known. Russell said if the company buys the land and submits a plan for its regional headquarters that it will be required by the town planning board to conduct a traffic study.

He also said that the company’s policy is not to drive in excess of the posted speed limit in congested or residential areas. In 10 years statewide, the company has never struck a pedestrian and had only one significant event — a rollover which resulted in no injury when there was no patient aboard.

North East became the emergency medical services provider last year for Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville and Hope, succeeding Camden First Aid Association. The company has been leasing office space on Route 1 in Rockport where State of Maine Cheese is located.

The company also has operations in Scarborough, Biddeford, Sanford, and Topsham.

The property is located along the Megunticook River at the intersection of Washington Street and Rawson Avenue.

Russell repeatedly told residents that no plans have been developed by the company in terms of buildings, parking spaces, or entrances. A drawing released by the town two weeks ago was something the town had put together to show what could be allowed on the site.

The projected number of calls are about 60 per week, he said. The busiest days are Thursday and Friday and most calls come in mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

The company has 33 employees, although it does expect some growth. There will be four ambulances, and four other vehicles stationed at the proposed facility.

The statements by the ambulance official, however, did not allay the concerns of the residents who gathered there.

Millville neighborhood organizer Tom Resek said that the operations would devalue the residential neighborhood of Millville. He said noise and light would be a problem for a neighborhood that is attracting young families and is growing.

Russell pointed out that the site is more centrally located than its current headquarters and that the response times for emergency medical services in Camden will be best in the county.

Former Select Board member Anitia Brosius-Scott asked the board to reconsider its decision to consider selling the property to Northeast. She said Rawson Avenue said the ambulance operations will exacerbate a traffic safety problem, pointing out that there are many young children on the street.

Resident Amy Fischer said the proposal is unsuitable for the neighborhood.

Select Board member John French Jr. said that he lived for many years on the street where Camden First Aid Association was based and he did not hear sirens at night. He also questioned the safety concerns for pedestrians, pointing out that there was considerable foot traffic on his street but no problems from ambulances.

“You make it sound like they’re going to take aim at people,” he said.

Residents had also questioned why Northeast did not buy the former Camden First Aid building but Dennis Brockway, the president of Northeast, said that the firm was outbid for the property. which was bought by PAWS Animal Adoption Center.

Residents said the lot should be used for another purpose such as a park or small neighborhood stores. Several residents said they would be willing to contribute money to buy the lot so that it can be preserved, pointing out that it is located along a stretch of the Megunticook River Walk.


©2014 the Bangor Daily News (Bangor, Maine)

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