The meeting of officials from Casco, Raymond and Naples to discuss combining emergency services Tuesday was only preliminary, but long overdue.

It is not just those three towns that might benefit from a reorganization of fire and paramedic services so one department could fully serve multiple towns.

Declining numbers of volunteers and increasing costs for equipment and fuel are two reasons adjoining towns ought to discuss how combined services might save taxpayers money while assuring residents remain safe.

Will it make sense to combine emergency services given the public safety buildings in Casco, Naples and Raymond form a rough triangle along routes 302 and 11 and are perhaps 20 or 30 minutes drive apart? Will the reduced overhead of combining the services result in savings? What would be the balance of staffing between stations and paid and volunteer crews?

These are obvious questions. What is missing are the answers.

While Naples Selectman Bob Caron is attracted to the idea of consolidating services, his work on the School Administrative District 61 reorganization committee leaves him rightfully wary that the savings of merging emergency services will be as elusive as the ones taxpayers were promised through school district consolidation.

The critical difference is that looking at consolidation of emergency services is coming from the bottom up, not mandated from the top down. That look from the bottom up is one that should have been taken long ago.

Happy returns

Readers will notice the return of former editor John Balentine to the Lakes Region Weekly opinion page this week. In addition, readers can also look forward to the return of “Inside Windham” columnist Marcia Blanchard in the fall.

I have been asking Balentine to contribute since he left the paper he helped established and stewarded so well. His new weekly column allows him to express his view of the world with the wit and grace that made him an award-winning reporter and editor.

The only drawback of his first column is that it reminds us why he is missed at the Current Publishing offices.

Blanchard’s return is not as imminent, but speaking with her for the first time since a respiratory infection in June led to her being put into a medically induced coma was the high point of my week last week.

Hearing her strong, cheerful voice and being assured she is recovering well and may not face permanent lung damage was immensely relieving and rewarding.

That she wants to continue writing the “Inside Windham” column is secondary, but still great news for the paper. Look for her return as soon as she feels ready.

It cannot be said the paper did not miss a beat without Blanchard. Having Kay Soldier available to take on the column was a huge help. For now, Soldier will continue to write “Inside Windham,” along with contributing “Lakes Region Memories” features and writing two other weekly columns.

So while it is wonderful to welcome John Balentine and Marcia Blanchard back, it is equally heartening to thank Kay Soldier for her work.

David Harry, editor

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