Sanford, Lebanon officials need to talk now

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Call it a pissing match, a game of chicken, a Mexican standoff.

Whatever it is, the people of Lebanon - not to mention all of those who use one of the most dangerous sections of highway in the state - can no longer tolerate this degradation of their first responder safety net.

Sanford fire chief Steven Benotti: Shame on you. You were so up on your numbers when you contrived this sole responder fee. You picked out a five-month period in late 2014 and compared it to similar timeframes the previous three years, which you said showed Sanford's rate as lone responder to Lebanon incidents was up 30 percent.

You also said you hoped this would serve as a wake-up call to Lebanon and its residents to become more self-sufficient in their rescue needs.

Well, if you look at the numbers, Mr. Benotti, you will note that Lebanon response percentages climbed throughout the latter part of last year.

If you read the newspapers, you'll note that the town voted to keep its Rescue 2 ambulance to help shore up its coverage ability.

And you'll note that since new Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Meehan took the reins, Lebanon Rescue has not missed a single call.

I would say we got your message loud and clear, but now I ask you: Are you hearing what Lebanon has done in response to your entreaties?

On Friday you ceased mutual aid to our town, dramatically degrading first response times in East Lebanon, which includes a dangerous section of Route 202 from the intersection of Depot and Little River roads to the Sanford line.

The last fatal accident there was in the summer of 2012. Walter Rand died as a result of injuries in a horrific multi-vehicle crash. Mr. Rand was from Sanford.

Are you getting the message, Mr. Benotti?

Lebanon selectmen, shame on you, too. As one resident said at a board meeting in December during which the Save Our Ambulance movement took hold, "If I knew that a neighboring town was planning to initiate a $2,000 sole responder fee, I would've been knocking down their door the next day to find out what I could to forestall it or what needed to be done to fix the problem."

Instead, it seems, the board has spent its time poring over protocols and precedent to see if what Sanford has done is lawful.

Earlier this week selectmen said, with regard to Sanford's pulling the plug on mutual aid, "It's with legal."

Selectmen, you should know, Mr. Rand was from Sanford, but he was a Lebanon native. Being with legal is getting old!

And so to Sanford City Manager Steven Buck, Sanford Fire Chief Steven Benotti, and Lebanon sels. Ben Thompson, Paul Philbrick and Royce Heath: Make this happen now.

Don't wait for a mediator or an injunction or a court date. Get together, hash it out and make it happen. Remember, public safety should never be negotiable.

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