Township officials seek ending the duplication of EMS services and contracting with the county to be sole first responders as a more efficient use of taxpayers dollars. The townships say the current EMS model is 40 years old and geographically based.
“As of May our population was 196,650,” said Genoa Township Trustee Rick Carfagna. “The current EMS model is geographical-based, not population based. It’s clear there is going to be an increased demand for EMS. The county is fixated on this geographic model and not a population-based model.”
Delaware County’s current population is projected to hit 200,000 within the next year, according to a recent report from the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission.
“It’s a situation that we’re going to be confronted with irregardless,” Orange township Trustee Rob Quigley said. “You have a tremendous amount of growth occurring in this county.”
Both Carfagna and Quigley said their townships were forced into providing EMS to their residents.
“Our constituents said we need increased services to keep up with the housing growth,” Carfagna said. “The county not wanting to accommodate basically forced us to meet that need.”
“I can say for Orange Township specifically that the county forced us into this because they couldn’t keep up with the growth.” Rob Quigley “We had to come up with an answer because they weren’t providing that service.”
“We built up our equipment to support the residents,” Quigley said. “Now we’re saying we need some help.”
The townships and the county are at odds with each other on how to accomplish the goal of providing the best EMS and how it is to be funded.
“What we really need is to work together,” said Gary Honeycutt, fire chief of Genoa Township. “Not only on providing service, but also with the funding.”
Delaware County Commissioner Jeff Benton has been looking into the matter, but said it would be another several weeks before he would be ready to present his analysis.
“With the rising cost of healthcare the one thing we’re looking at is a sustainable cost-efficient system,” Carfagna said,
“We need firefighters and we need paramedics, but thinking the most cost effective way is only having firefighters and only paramedics is a fallacy.”
According to Dale Fling, Harlem Township fire chief, the county commissioners in 1971 held hearings on establishing a .5 percent sales tax to fund an ambulance service. During the public hearings it was brought up to earmark the money specifically for EMS services, but the board said the code would not allow them to do that.
“It’s quite obvious that by the journals from those hearings and by the newspaper accounts that the full intent of that tax was for EMS,” Fling said. “However, they could not earmark it because the state code at the time would not allow them to do that. It had to go in with the general fund money.”
The townships agree as the development of housing and commercial businesses moves north there is going to be a need for EMS in those areas. “Instead of hiring new people, take the existing people you have and use them better,” Carfagna said.
“Before you build new stations, hire new people, buy new vehicles and equipment, why don’t we first take a look at the existing resources that we have to make sure they are being used in the most efficient manor,” Quigley said.
Township officials said there needs to be a more cooperative system of EMS in Delaware County.
“It’s never been about we’re better than them or they are better than us,” Carfagna said. “Our paramedics have to go through the same level of training as theirs. We’re talking about working together in a more effective way.”
The townships don’t see this as a money grab but an efficient way to use the money. “Why is this such a road block with safety services compared to everything else the county is doing?” Quigley said. “Let’s sit down to the table and talk about this.”
Currently the townships have levies that pay for the EMS and fire services. The townships were asked if they would rescind their respective levies if they were to receive funding from the county.
“Each township is going to have to make that decision with their board on how they’re going to approach that,” Quigley said.
Editor’s note: The Delaware County EMS perspective was reported in a July 11 story.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.