In July, the Delaware County Board of Commissioners shared a master draft plan for countywide collaboration and best practices in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) with the townships. Michael Frommer, Delaware County administrator, presented the plan to the Liberty Township Board of Trustees during its Oct. 1 regular meeting.
During the presentation, 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),” she 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.”
To help clarify Leneghan’s statement of paying for both services, 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, is supported through the township’s fire levy.
Commissioner Barb Lewis told The Gazette that she wants to set the record straight.
“We commissioners have not even adopted the draft EMS report, yet alone made any decisions whatsoever regarding future changes to Delaware County EMS,” she said in prepared statement. “Some in Liberty Township have put the cart before the horse. … what sense would it make for the county to replace Liberty Township’s cross-trained EMS when they’re already doing a great job for their residents?”
Lewis said that during the trustees meeting on Oct. 1, two of the trustees, Leneghan and Mike Gemperline, “neglected to mention that the county is already paying Liberty Township $250,000 a year to provide excellent EMS services to township residents,” she said in her statement. “Trustee Leneghan is also quite wrong to state that ‘the commissioners’ ultimate goal is to make Delaware County EMS a countywide service.’”
During Frommer’s presentation to trustees, he said that both Liberty Township and the City of Delaware fire departments partner with the county, in which the county provides supplementary funding to provide the service to the individual municipalities.
Lewis states that for the county to take over the township’s EMS coverage, it could cost county taxpayers at least $2 million up front.
“Do the taxpayers of Sunbury, Ashley, Galena, Ostrander, Shawnee Hills and Delaware want their county commissioners to spend that kind of money to replace Liberty Township’s existing EMS system?” she asked. “Would the taxpayers in any of the county’s other 17 townships? That $2 million could be better spent on upgrading our existing countywide EMS system, as recommended by the Fitch & Associates draft report.”
Frommer mentioned that in the county there are seven individual organizations providing EMS, which are mostly housed within fire departments, plus Delaware County’s countywide EMS. He 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.
“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 the modernization and innovation of the field to take it to the next step.”
The study and corresponding draft were provided by Fitch and Associates of Platte City, Missouri.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.