December 13, 2011
Continuing an inter-governmental squabble that has been going on for months, Genoa Township trustees on Monday publicly asked Delaware County commissioners to shut down the county’s EMS operations in Genoa and turn them over to the township.
“Simply put, we propose the county modernize its 40-year-old system of Emergency Medical Services in our township by contracting with us,” said Genoa board of trustees chair Rick Carfagna, who along with his fellow Genoa trustees addressed commissioners during a portion of Monday’s commissioners session.
Contracting EMS to Genoa Township would save taxpayers from duplication of services that exists in Genoa and other southern townships, where both the county and the township provide EMS, Carfagna said.
“Why throw good tax dollars after a bad plan when a better option exists?” Carfagna said.
Trustee Karl Gebhardt asked commissioners to give Genoa Township part of the 0.5 percent sales tax commissioners approved in 1970 to create and fund the Delaware County EMS department. The township would use that money to pay its firefighters/paramedics, he said.
Delaware County already shares the sales tax with fire departments in Liberty Township and Delaware city, under an agreement signed the same time the county started up its EMS department.
“While discussions have been held with the county and jurisdictions (on the EMS issue), we have hit a brick wall when it comes to actual action and a willingness to change” how the county provides EMS, Gebhardt said.
Plus, more than half of Delaware County residents are served primarily by fire-based (township) EMS, while only 19 percent are served primarily by the county’s EMS department, Genoa trustees said. Carfagna and Gebhardt on Monday read from lengthy prepared statements, which they later provided to the Gazette. Township administrator Paul Wise took photos of each trustee while they stood at the podium in the commissioners hall.
While he went out of his way to clarify that commissioners appreciate and welcome comments from other elected officials, commission President Dennis Stapleton was annoyed that Genoa trustees didn’t give more advance notice of their arrival.
Stapleton said some of the trustees’ comments were “well-intended,” while others were “way off-base.”
“I think you’re slighting the amount of time that this board has spent discussing this issue. We have discussed it, as the county administrator can attest, for hours upon end. So I don’t know of any brick wall that’s come from this board on this issue,” Stapleton said. “This issue is not nearly as simple as you make it sound, and I don’t appreciate you coming before us and insinuating that it is.”
Stapleton said Monday he wasn’t going to debate the issue with Carfagna and Gebhardt without any prior preparation. Stapleton has previously told the Gazette a countywide EMS operation — through sharing operating costs on administration, supplies and training — is more efficient than letting each township operate their own through the fire departments.
That’s the position generally adopted by the county, and supported by the rural northern townships, which can’t afford to fund their own service. The southern townships, on the other hand, say they were forced to create their own EMS services when the county failed to expand its service at the same rate as population growth there.
“Our primary concern, as is your primary concern, is to serve Delaware County’s citizens as efficiently and as effectively as we can,” said Commissioner Tommy Thompson.
Carfagna and Gebhardt both referred to a recent plan approved by commissioners that would increase the county’s cost of providing EMS in Genoa Township by $420,000 over the next 10 years.
Commissioners earlier this year decided to lease and convert a former motorcycle store in Genoa Township into an EMS station there. The county previously paid Genoa Township $16,000 a year to rent space in its fire station, but the township kicked the county out after hiring more firefighters, funded by a local property tax increase approved by Genoa voters.
Carfagna and Gebhardt also referred to a 2010 study commissioned by Delaware County, Genoa Township and Harlem Township. The study’s consultant found “obvious” duplication of services, and recommended the townships and county consolidate services.
However, no significant changes have resulted, and both sides maintain their model of providing EMS is best.