According to officials of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3754, Liberty Township’s Fire Department would lose 32 cross-trained firefighters/paramedics if the Delaware County Board of Commissioners’ proposal to take control of the township’s emergency medical services (EMS) is approved.
Scott Simmons, IAFF Local 3754 president, stood before the commissioners during its Thursday morning meeting to share Local 3754’s position on the proposal as it stands now.
“It is on record from your meeting in October that this would mean 18 jobs,” he told the board. “That is not accurate, it would be 32 jobs once you include the part-time employees. Thirty-two jobs equal cutting our emergency services in Liberty Township and the city of Powell by 58 percent!”
“No government entity should be cutting 58 percent of its emergency services, let alone a community that passed their most recent fire levy in November of 2017,” Simmons emphasized to the board.
Simmons reminded the commissioners that the county’s proposal states that the township is to report the savings the takeover will afford them to the commissioners.
“The only way to do this is by eliminating jobs,” he said. “Simply put, this plan is unsafe, unnecessary, and hurts our community.”
Simmons praised the staff of Delaware County EMS for their professionalism, but he said the cuts still would be a reduction in service to the residents the Liberty Township Fire Department serves.
“The men and woman of Delaware County EMS International Association of EMTs and Paramedics R7-11 are true professionals and do an excellent job providing EMS to the residents and visitors of Delaware County,” he said. “We all work very well together and many of us have long-lasting friendships.”
Simmons said the departments may wear different uniforms but they all have the same goal in mind, “providing those we are sworn to protect with the highest level of care possible.”
Simmons said in 1971, the county commissioners “felt the same way when they enacted the excise tax for the public peace, health and safety, proving this by signing contracts with the Delaware City Fire Department and Liberty Township Fire Department” for the reimbursement of providing EMS.
“The Liberty Township Fire Department has been serving the residents of Liberty and the city of Powell since 1947, and we have been providing fire-based EMS since 1952,” he said.
Simmons referenced the “overwhelming support” of the residents from the Monday, Dec. 3, Liberty Township Board of Trustees meeting.
“Citizens filled our township hall to standing room only,” he said. “Our fire station became the meeting hall so residents could be present.”
The township hall capacity is 180 people, but residents were given seats in the hallway for those who could not stand for long periods of time. The department offices, the living quarters, the radio room, the kitchen, and the workout room were opened to residents so they could participate in the meeting Monday night.
“The board of trustees heard testimony from over 30 residents in attendance. Not one person said this is a good plan. Not one person said this is something we want, not one person,” he told the commissioners. “The city of Powell represents 49 percent of the population in Liberty Township. The City of Powell (Council) heard testimony from residents … all sending similar messages … keep Liberty Township Fire and EMS.”
Simmons said that Local 3754 “strongly opposes this matter” and he asked the commissioners to “do the same.”
“We ask and encourage you to let the professionals sit down and work through the differences, policies, procedures, inefficiencies to seek the best possible outcome for the people we are sworn to protect,” he said. “In the interest of public safety, we ask that you do not let politics affect the safety, health, and well-being of our residents and any resident of Delaware County.”
Chalaco Clark, a Local 3754 member and Delaware County resident, said he couldn’t understand the proposed savings if the county took over Liberty Township’s EMS.
“You’re increasing your staff down there (Liberty Township) by reducing it up north,” he said. “Even in your own study, it says that the volumes of auto accidents are going to increase because of (an increase in) the volume of traffic.”
Clark suggested that the commissioners broaden their view by not only looking at EMS but look at fire as well, since their studies indicate that volume. He said he has nothing against the staff of the county EMS, but they were “only trained to be medics.”
“They’re not rescue technicians, their not firemen,” he said. “You guys have an endless budget. We have more money in this county than we have ever before going in (the general fund because of the) half-percent sales tax, and now you’re looking at ways to cut the staffing?”
Clark said the county has become a high-density population, but county officials look for ways to decrease the services.
“It’s money grabs,” he said. “It goes into the general fund so you can use it on something else. I urge every Delaware County resident to put pressure on you guys to figure this out as a whole encapsulated situation and not look at it as one thing. Take care of your people, and take care of the residents.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.