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Levy proposed for countywide EMS services

August 8, 2018

WAYNE - Wayne County commissioners and emergency personnel are collaborating to put an excess levy on the November ballot that will pay for countywide ambulance service.

The proposed excess levy, which could total anywhere from $1.2 million to $1.8 million dollars, would provide funding to streamline emergency response and care from the northern to southern end of the county. While some departments have their own EMS staff, at times it could take anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour to respond to a call with the southern end of the county often seeing the longer waits.

The need for a countywide system was detailed in a study conducted by Marshall University in collaboration with B.J. Willis of the Wayne County Office of Emergency Services.

The study concluded that EMS in its current form is working, but it’s fragile. It took a look at the existing EMS system and helped to determine whether it is fulfilling the obligation of the Commission to provide an emergency ambulance response to everyone in Wayne County. Criteria for determining data such as where stations should be included were call volume, call zones (where the calls occurred), transport times, time of day and response times.

According to the study, it was concluded that two additional stations and three 12-hour ambulances would be highly beneficial, the need for specialized skills, and how they will be provided needs to be identified and the need for special skills training and school programs. It was also concluded that the county EMS system needs a 10-year plan for growth.

Originally, commissioners said if the proposal passes to place the levy on the ballot, a Wayne County Ambulance Authority would be created with employees working for the county through the ambulance authority. However, Dunlow Fire and EMS Chief Matt Stroud and the other department heads expressed concern with this option.

In a collaborative presentation, a plan as to how a levy totaling $1.8 million could be spread over the four-year pay period to benefit all departments.

It would allot $141,667 per truck and the purchase of three new squads in the first three-year shares with $180,556 per truck and the purchase of one new squad in the fourth year share.

“This is going to save the south while supplementing the north,” Stroud said. “This plan will help to put more ambulances on the road and decrease response times. This would place an ambulance in the three locations in which there currently is not one - Crum, Fort Gay and East Lynn. It would allow for all trucks in the county to be equipped and operated the same across the board. Any EMS from any department could walk on any truck and expect the exact same set up.”

Commission President Bob Pasley said it is the common opinion that one catastrophe could lead to failure due to resources and personnel being spread thin.

“We all want the same thing here,” Pasley said. “We all want the citizens to receive the same care no matter where they live in Wayne County.”

The major difference in the proposed ideas includes the development of the authority.

“We know what it takes because we are doing it every day,” Ceredo Fire Chief David Caudill said. “Instead of making this ‘authority’ and paying for additional positions, let us take care of it amongst ourselves. It would be the same services and same idea you are proposing, but would cut out the price of paying extra employees.”

As for the hike in taxes, some do not want to pay the additional rates needed for the levy, but according to Stroud if you poll much of the southern part of the county, the need is obvious to residents.

County leaders are still working on the details of the proposal such as staffing and the number of ambulances and stations, which will finalize how much the excess levy will be.

Prichard Fire Department’s Mark Ross said he wants to know what the ballot call will be sooner than later.

“We need to know what we are going out into the community and pushing for,” Ross said.

Commissioners have until Aug. 9 to finalize what will go on the ballot, or else they will have to wait for the 2020 elections.

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