A revised countywide EMS plan devised by the Fulton County Commissioners may lay to rest complaints by some local fire chiefs and township trustees that they don’t receive enough funding to properly maintain rescue services.
Proposed to begin Jan. 1, 2022, the five-year plan would involve a replacement levy that would generate approximately $4.5 million annually to support the county’s seven EMS entities. The levy would also allow for the creation of an eighth, central EMS location to provide back-up mutual aid to the county’s northern communities.
Laid out in broad strokes for local officials during a Zoom meeting hosted Tuesday by the Fulton County Commissioners, the EMS plan would issue $450,000 annually to each of the EMS services in Fayette, Lyons, and Metamora. The funds would pay for one 24/7 paramedic position and one 12-hour EMT position at each station; the remaining 12-hour period for an EMT would be optional for those entities.
EMS entities in Delta, Archbold, and Swanton would each receive $750,000 annually to provide full ALS services, using a minimum of one paramedic and one EMT.
By their request, the EMS station covering Wauseon and Clinton Township would receive $650,000 annually to provide full ALS services, also with a minimum of one paramedic and one EMT. However, the lesser amount provided would allow the city to stay responsible for its own billing and supplies.
An eighth EMS entity, to be known as Central Station, would be constructed near the Fulton County Airport and receive $375,000 annually to provide full ALS services as mutual aid back-up for the county’s northern communities, and for other county areas when necessary.
Each EMS entity would remain under an individual contract with the county and supply its own staffing. But actual expenses paid to each entity would be based upon documentation they would submit to the county at one or more times each year showing they provided the amount of staffing their contract stipulates.
“This isn’t in any way to be punitive to the station if they can’t staff it, but it’s to make sure that the taxpayers aren’t paying for a service that the entities aren’t able to provide,” Commissioner Jeff Rupp said following the Zoom meeting.
He added that the lesser amount of $450,000 the northern entities would receive would still allow for both staffing and operating costs.
The commissioners’ revised EMS plan would rely on passage of a five-year, 4-mill replacement levy scheduled for the May 4 ballot. The levy would replace two current 2-mill levies and generate additional revenue. Should the levy fail it would be reintroduced on a ballot scheduled later this year.
A continuing half-mill, $250,000 per year levy active in the county for decades will still be used to purchase new ambulances and emergency equipment. The county will remain in charge of equipment maintenance.
And the county will be reimbursed for EMS runs through insurance billing, which will pay for the system’s supplies and fuel.
Rupp said the commissioners’ revised plan was introduced individually to the county’s seven EMS entities over several weeks and presented Jan. 14 during a meeting of the county’s fire chiefs.
Upset over what they considered insufficient funding from the county, several of the local EMS services last year pondered separating from their county contracts and establishing independent EMS systems.
“A lot of them felt they were under-funded, and they couldn’t provide the service that they felt they needed to provide for their communities based on the funding they were getting from the county,” Rupp said. “They didn’t know which direction the county was going to move in. They were being proactive.”
He said the revised plan still offers the EMS entities individual contracts with the county, “(but) this will just be a revised, updated contract to meet the current circumstances. So far the response has been very favorable from the entities on this program and the overall scheme.”
Among the entities supporting the plan are EMS partners Wauseon and Clinton Township, which last year vocally criticized Fulton County’s current EMS system. Rupp said the partnership is reacting positively to the new proposal.
“They said that we listened to them…and they were very pleased with that,” he said.
Wauseon Fire Chief Rick Sluder said the department has “taken a positive step in the direction we need fire and emergency services to go in the county. We realized (the commissioners) had needs to maintain control over the levy, and so we just came to an agreement that would work for both sides.”
Sluder said the department will maintain its own billing procedures because they work better and bring in more revenue. “By maintaining our own billing we can provide more revenue back to the taxpayer to maintain our system than what we could using the county’s way to do it. It just makes it a little more efficient,” he said.
The chief said the new plan “puts us all back on the same page…and it just works out best for our constituents on both sides, and I think it will be a good plan.”
Amboy Township Trustee Richard Raab said he was surprised Tuesday’s Zoom meeting last only about a half-hour. “I thought we were going to get more in-depth,” he said. “It’s all kind of up in the air right now; it’s really too early to even form an opinion yet…It remains to be seen how the funding is all going to play out as far as, they want full-time people.”
Raab said it remains to be seen whether the proposed annual funding for Amboy Township would remain sufficient over the commissioners’ five-year plan.
Trevor Hibbard, a Gorham Township trustee who previously had questions about the county’s EMS contracts, declined comment.
But Rupp said he’s pleased with the revised plan. “I’m more happy that the people in the different communities and the fire chiefs and the townships seem to be happy with it,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.