CAPE ELIZABETH – The town’s rescue department, now staffed entirely by volunteers, might have a paid paramedic on duty seven days a week during the day starting Jan. 1.

A less active volunteer force and an increase in ambulance response time led Fire Chief Peter Gleeson to request adding the position at a Town Council workshop Monday night. The council will vote on the proposal at its meeting Oct. 12.

Paying employees from the existing volunteers per diem to fill the shift would cost about $76,400 per year, Town Manager Mike McGovern wrote in a memo to the council.

The 26 volunteers in the rescue department are paid each time they respond to an emergency call. Gleeson said fewer volunteers are responding to each call, and the response time is increasing. “The trend is it’s taking us longer to get the ambulance on the road and to the patient … enough to concern me,” he said.

Gleeson said an increase in procedures and paperwork required by hospitals means volunteers must spend more time on each call, a disincentive to respond.

More than half the town’s emergency calls occur between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Gleeson said. That’s when he proposes having a paramedic on duty. The shift could be filled by a different person each day. When not responding to emergencies, that person would be expected to clean the station, check equipment and perform other duties.

None of the councilors said Monday that they opposed the proposal.

Another issue taken up — charging buses and trolleys admission fees to visit Fort Williams Park — sparked debate among councilors. The issue had been tabled in June.

The Fort Williams Advisory Commission has recommended charging $40 per tour bus and a seasonal rate of $1,500 per trolley.

Councilor Anne Swift-Kayatta said it would be unfair to charge people taking bus tours, but not charge people who take their own cars. Town voters have rejected charging fees twice in the past five years.

Councilor Sara Lennon argued that charging a commercial enterprise isn’t the same as charging an individual.

“They’re making a giant profit on our park. We just want a little bit of it,” she said.

Although councilors disagree on the issue, they agreed it needs to be decided. There will be a public hearing on the bus and trolley fees Oct. 12, and the council will vote in November.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at [email protected]