The Delaware County Board of Commissioners distributed a draft master plan to township trustees throughout the county in July that offers four individual options for Emergency Medical Services (EMS), with one of the options being a countywide run EMS department.
The study and corresponding draft were provided by Fitch and Associates of Platte City, Missouri.
Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan said residents are paying for both the township’s fire department/EMS and the county EMS. She added it appears the commissioners’ ultimate goal is to make Delaware County EMS a countywide service.
“In speaking with some people at the county, they think this is great opportunity to do that (countywide EMS),” Leneghan said. “I think as a trustee that it would be completely irresponsible of us to not hear what that looks like … and see what kind of savings that represents.”
For clarification, The Gazette reported in 2016 that the county EMS is supported by a countywide .5 percent sales tax, while Liberty Township’s fire department, including EMS, are supported through the township’s fire levy.
Michael Frommer, Delaware County administer, was invited by trustees to present the master draft plan and answer questions.
Frommer said there are seven individual organizations that provide EMS in the county with most being fire departments that provide the service, plus DCEMS. Currently, Liberty Township and the City of Delaware fire departments partner with the county, which provides supplementary funding to provide the service to their individual municipalities.
“It is kind of two-fold,” he said about the draft. “It was to look at our organization, DCEMS, and also the service that is provided throughout the county as a whole. I think it’s more of embracing more of the moderation and innovation of the field to take it to the next step.”
Frommer said Delaware County EMS has 10 stations throughout the county in different geographic areas, but not one is set up solely in a township.
“One of the things that came to light in the master plan was an opportunity to potentially enhance what is already an outstanding service that’s being provided to the residents of the county,” he said. “I think some examples of regional collaboration that have been very successful is the 9-1-1 call center and the EMA (Emergency Management Agency) in the county.”
Frommer said a couple of the things that came out in the master plan that the county might consider is dispatching the closest vehicle using GPS technology and a predetermined response protocol.
“Right now, it’s all lights and sirens to everything whether it’s a sprained ankle or not because there’s not a uniform (protocol) established, because of the seven different proprietors in the county,” he said. “We think there could be some opportunity on overlapping costs if we work together.”
Frommer added there are four alternatives to the master plan, but none of those alternatives have been adopted.
“There has not been a formal vote by the commissioners about adopting this master plan and recommending it to the board (of trustees),” he said.
Liberty Township Trustee Shyra Eichhorn said she realizes the master plan is only a draft, but there are a lot of red flags in it for her.
“Are you working through those first,” she asked Frommer.
Frommer said the county was starting to implement some improvements.
“Some of the stuff that is a red flag is a result of having seven different providers,” he said. “There are things that were red flags to us that we would have to collaborate with the other providers.”
Eichhorn said the board is always looking for ways to save taxpayers money, but added, “I feel it’s completely irresponsible to put their safety into jeopardy or make sure our residents don’t have the best EMS as possible. From that draft, there are several issues.”
Eichhorn said people “want to save money, but at what expense?”
“I don’t see a plan that is giving us the same services,” she said. “I don’t have much interest, but I want to hear from the residents.”
Trustee Mike Gemperline said if there is an option for saving that does not reduce the services, he feels “it’s crazy not to take the savings.”
Leneghan said she read the report to say that because there are seven providers, there are problems.
“Delaware County EMS itself doesn’t have problems, they don’t have process problems,” she said. “They are not inferior in their response times. Outside the county’s system is where the flaws are.”
Trustees asked Chief Tom O’Brien to pull the township’s numbers and compare them to the numbers in the draft master plan.
After the meeting, O’Brien did not comment on the topic.
However, Liberty Township Professional Firefighters Local 3754 rendered a press release to The Gazette.
“The Liberty Township Fire Department has provided emergency medical care to our neighbors since 1947. Our community relies on us to keep them safe, and we take that responsibility seriously. There is no reason to change our EMS service delivery. Services like fire and EMS are best kept with the local government, where they can be more responsive to the needs of the citizens.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.