Liberty Township residents attended a special trustees meeting Monday morning at the township offices in support of the township’s current fire/EMS (emergency medical services) model. Due to fire code capacities, many stood across the street singing Christmas carols.
“I think we have better things to be doing than coming here to babysit township trustees who are supposed to be looking out for our best interest,” said Chip Vance, a business owner and township resident of 15 years. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t continue or renew our medical director’s (appointment) for another year. He’s a highly decorated, respected professional. …you should not jeopardize our standing in our ability to provide care to the residents.”
Vance, like many township residents, is concerned about a proposal from the Delaware County Board of Commissioners to turn control of the township’s EMS to Delaware County EMS (DCEMS). Trustees received the proposal from the commissioners Nov. 29.
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn had asked for a discussion and resolution to be placed on the Monday agenda for the EMS medical director. By Sunday, the two items had been removed from the agenda.
“I had it put on the agenda so it could be discussed today, but it was taken off the agenda, which goes against pass practice,” she said. “If we don’t have a medical director, we can’t operate EMS.”
Trustee Mike Gemperline and Eichhorn approved a resolution Dec. 17 to extend the current medical director’s appointment until Jan. 31. Trustee Melanie Leneghan voted against the measure.
Eichhorn said when Yamarick gave his professional opinion against the county’s proposal, a discussion of not approving him for the 2019 year began to pop up.
“From all the research that I have done and talking to safety and medical professionals, 38 days isn’t a sufficient amount of time to responsibly change the medical director,” she said. “As of today, our chief has not interviewed anyone else. My fellow trustees have not brought any other candidates to our chief. Our chief has already gone on record recommending Dr. Warren Yamarick. Our administrator has not met with any other candidates. I know that no candidates have been brought to me as well.”
Eichhorn said given the current political climate in the township, the residents have a reason for concern.
“We’re having record numbers of attendance and yet my two fellow trustees passed a resolution to change public comments (in the trustees meetings),” she said. “I think they have every right to be feeling uneasy about what exactly is happening on the agenda.”
“It’s Christmas Eve morning and I know people have plenty of other things they want to be doing, but instead, they know how important this issue is … regardless if the meeting was Christmas Eve morning or Christmas Day, they were going to come out and show their support,” Eichhorn added.
Rick Karr, a 15-year resident, said he has become very concerned about a couple of the trustees’ unwillingness to respond to questions on the record.
“That to me is a concern about the overall integrity of our political process in Liberty Township as well as in Delaware County,” he said. “It’s become evident that if you don’t want to discuss an issue … then there’s a question here. We need to understand that. We need to have a public discussion.
“Second, I know Dr. Yamarick. I know Dr. Yamarick’s reputation at Ohio Health as well as here in the Liberty Township community as a resident and essentially volunteering his time and effort to build one of the top fire/EMS programs in this state, if not the country,” he said. ”I really believe that his accreditation and reputation is something the community values, and I question why they want to change.”
Leneghan said the current EMS model will become unsustainable through property taxes.
“As our community grows, EMS is basically socialized medicine. To sustain the level of EMS that we have now is not sustainable with property taxes,” she said. “We are looking at all the opportunities for improved services and different ways we can expand our partnership with the county, because the county can recognize revenue streams that we simply can never recognize.”
Leneghan gave the example of the county’s half-percent sales tax that in part funds Delaware County EMS.
“Their EMS is funded by a half-percent sales tax which is growing exponentially every year,” she said. “The only revenue stream that the township can recognize is property taxes, which are already very, very high. We need help from the county.”
Leneghan said it could end up that the township might not turn over control of the township’s EMS to the county.
“This could look all kinds of different ways,” she said. “We’re exploring ways for improvement.”
Leneghan said the proposal is nothing more than what the commissioners “are willing to do.”
“That is the most they can do through that proposal,” she said. “We’re looking at every opportunity, and because we’ve opened the gates of communication, we are discovering many opportunities to improve the service levels in Liberty Township,” she said. “Good things are happening. Positive things are coming from it for the people in Liberty Township.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.