Community Ambulance to Close 

Folks in Dixmont and surrounding towns are used to having a quick response if they ever need an ambulance.For 18 years, Ginny and Butch Cole have operated Community Ambulance out of their home on the Kennebec Road.But the Coles say it’s time to close their doors because bureaucracy has made it too tough to run their business.Amy Erickson has more.<"It's been my life for 18 years."Virginia Cole says the decision to close Community Ambulance on June 30-th is bittersweet.She has a passion for saving lives, but says the government's making it too tough to run her small business."The government's not paying its bills and from what I hear from the congress and senate, the medical fields are going to be hit...hit hard.""It costs us $8-$10 to put oxygen on a patient. Mainecare, or Mainecaid, now pays $6. So every time I put oxygen on a patient, I lose money.""Our income keeps declining and our expenses keep inclining. And we just can't keep taking the cost of it. My husband and I have mortgaged our home several times to keep this ambulance up."Cole and her husband Butch are the primary responders for Dixmont and surrounding towns, though they receive no funding from those municipalities.Once they go out of business, folks may have to wait for an ambulance from as far away as Bangor.The Coles worry about what that means for the sick and the elderly, but say they just can't keep pouring their personal savings into the operation."I'm sorry about the communities, but maybe they should have supported us a little better.""We've spoiled the towns by being able to respond. We're about the fastest ambulance in the whole area. At no cost."The last straw came in April, when the state notified the Coles they'd have to make the switch to computerized reporting.They said no way."To hire somebody to sit down at a computer and do this? I don't have the money to do that."Butch Cole says the community likely won't realize the importance of Community Ambulance until it's gone."I think they're going to have a rude awakening. Because some of the new requirements they have with the state...on structure fires, we always used to go and stand by. Now it's mandatory. That was at our expense. It just got to the point that all these little small expenses we're not able to afford any longer."Amy Erickson, WABI TV5 News, Dixmont.>