Liberty Township residents became boisterous Monday during a regularly scheduled trustees meeting when Trustee Melanie Leneghan proposed a resolution not included on the agenda.
“There has been a misguided campaign of deception used in order to try advance this absurd policy of changing the way that our locally controlled fire/EMS (emergency medical services) services are run here in Liberty Township,” said Spencer Dirrig, a township resident. “By introducing this as new business … despite the fact that this was clearly already written and prepared before this meeting, you chose not to put it on the agenda … to have people comment on the issue.”
Dirrig said as an informed voter, he had no idea what was in the proposal nor any “idea what has been going on behind closed doors.”
“That is highly distressing to me,” he said.
Leneghan responded by saying she didn’t know if the resolution language would be finished in time for the meeting, so she decided to present the draft during new business.
“Matt (Huffman, the former township administrator,) and I had been working on responding to the county’s Oct. 30 proposal,” Leneghan said. “Mike Frommer (Delaware County Administrator) has repeatedly been asking me to send a proposal …”
The resolution in question, which was approved by a 2-1 vote, allows the township to submit a draft proposal to be legally reviewed before it’s forwarded to the Delaware County Board of Commissioners for consideration.
The proposal sent by the county commissioners back in October 2018 would replace the township’s fire-based EMS with Delaware County EMS.
In 1972, the county commissioners enacted a .5% sales tax for the purpose of funding an ambulance service. Currently, the township receives reimbursement from the county held fund for EMS.
Leneghan said the township is operating and budgeting without a contractual agreement with the county for continued reimbursement.
“It’s irresponsible to sit here and budget based on the funding they (county commissioners) can stop at any time,” she said. “This gives them an opportunity to respond. They want to respond, according to Mike, and they can’t respond without a proposal. That’s why we started preparing it.”
The commissioners approved the formation of the Delaware County Pre-Hospitalization Care System Board in February and suspended the controversial EMS proposal sent to Liberty Township.
“I talked with Commissioner Jeff Benton last week,” Leneghan said. “He said, ‘We know you passed a resolution, but we would like you to present us with a response.’ They want to hear from us. They said give us a proposal, not a resolution, that is all this is.”
Leneghan said that ultimately it’s in the commissioners’ hands.
“Either way, it would have to be reviewed,” she said. “Even if it’s legally reviewed, we can amend it. It would have to go back if we made any major changes.”
Trustee Michael Gemperline asked Leneghan if Frommer was really asking for the proposal from the township.
“He has repeatedly asked for this,” Leneghan told him. “Mike Frommer, who speaks for the commissioners, told Matt they want a proposal.”
Delaware County was asked to respond to Leneghan’s accusation of Frommer “repeatedly” asking for a proposal from the trustees.
“After the Liberty trustees passed their resolution asking the county to pay $1 million per year over 10 years, Matt Huffman reached out to Mike Frommer, who pointed out that our Board would need a proposal that provided a level of detail that wasn’t present in the resolution in order to assess and respond,” said Delaware County Board of Commissioners Director of Communications Jane Hawes. “We still have not received the requested proposal. In total, Frommer has made one request for a proposal and twice requested a status check from Huffman about that proposal.”
Gemperline added he saw no harm in the draft being evaluated, and seconded the motion, which led to him and Leneghan voting to approve the resolution for legal review of the document.
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn said it would be great to have more money to fund the township’s fire-based EMS, but she had a couple of issues with the process.
“I think that’s a discussion that’s going to happen,” she said. “We’re actually having discussions, as we all know, talking about what’s going to happen after the focus of patient care. We’re not going to have the results we’re looking for if it isn’t a county approach.”
Eichhorn said she thought it would be a waste of time to send the draft for review.
“I think there is a difference of them seeking information from us and us pressing them for a response,” she said. “That’s what I see, at least from the communication that I’m having with them.”
The proposal from the township that is headed off for legal review involves a 10-year contract with Delaware County in which the county would provide $1 million in reimbursements annual for the life of the contract.
“We would like to propose $1 million annual reimbursement to be paid by the county to Liberty Township to provide the funding for our EMS services,” Leneghan stated in her proposal. “… Liberty Board of Trustees has considered the March 2001 Ohio Attorney General decision 2001011 which states: ‘When it is clear that a county or township provides emergency medical services, emergency medical personnel of the county or township are responsible for providing such services throughout the entire territory of the county or township.’
“Therefore, based upon all the above, the Liberty Township Board of Trustees, on behalf of the taxpayers they represent, would like to counter the county’s offer by proposing that instead of providing the EMS services to … entering into a 10-year contract with Liberty Township.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.