(Posted Sept. 21, 2018)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
The Madison County Emergency Medical District (EMD) board is regrouping following London city council’s vote to withdraw from the EMD and provide its own emergency medical services through the city fire department.
At a special meeting on Sept. 18, the EMD board signed a letter formally accepting the city’s decision to withdraw. The letter is addressed to Patrick Closser, mayor, Joe Russell, city council president, and Jennifer Hitt, city law director.
In the letter, the board states, “The EMD board would like to extend a thank you to the city of London residents who have always been very supportive of the district and are saddened that we will no longer be serving them. However, with the decision by the city of London, the district and our board must move forward and continue to provide its excellent services to the townships that remain a part of this organization.”
The city’s withdrawal from the EMD will take effect Jan. 1, 2019. Effective that same date, the city will no longer have a representative on the EMD board. Currently, Bill Long serves as the city’s representative and is president of the board.
Following the split, the EMD will continue to provide emergency medical services to Deer Creek, Monroe, Paint, Oak Run, Somerford and Union townships.
The board is forming a planning committee to determine how the district will operate in 2019.
The Madison County Auditor’s Office will appraise the EMD’s assets and apportion part of them to the city. County Auditor Jennifer Hunter, County Prosecutor Steve Pronai, and Jennifer Hitt began talks on the asset division on Sept. 19.
Currently, the city’s 3-mill levy for emergency medical services supplies 38 percent of the EMD’s funding. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, that funding to the EMD will stop.
At the EMD’s Sept. 18 special meeting, an EMD employee asked if the board plans to keep its current employees on staff.
Board member Bill Laney responded, “I think the EMD is going to have a different look,” but that it will remain busy serving six townships and providing patient transfers.
“I’m hoping we can maintain all of our people,” he said.
Laney is unhappy with the city’s decision to withdraw from the district and said that until this past spring, the only complaint the city had brought to the EMD board was a request that the board choose a renewal over a replacement for its most recent levy request.
In May, Mayor Closser sent the EMD a proposal asking for three changes: a decrease in the city’s tax collection for EMD services from 3 mills to 2 mills, stating the EMD had excessive carryover funds; an increase in the city’s representation on the EMD board because the city is the largest tax contributor to the district; and city control of run cards within the city limits. Run cards are the system that determines what personnel and equipment are dispatched to what emergency runs.
Matt Furbee, EMD board vice president, said the board could not by law change the city’s millage share. Roger Wilson, an EMD board member, said that while the city contributes 38 percent of the district’s funding, 65 percent of the district’s runs are in the city limits. Furbee also said that when he asked city officials for the specific changes they wanted on run cards, he received no specifics.
Laney said that the current system of an EMD separate from, but working in tandem with, the fire department serves the citizens well.
“What we need is a fire department that will work with us and be a partner…but apparently they don’t want that,” he said.
Joann Gray, a London resident, commented that she opposes the city’s decision to split from the EMD and that the citizens should have had a say on the withdrawal.
Originally, city leaders said the decision to withdraw would depend on voters passing a 2-mill levy to fund emergency medical services provided by the city fire department. The levy is on the Nov. 6 election ballot. On Sept. 6, city council voted 6-1 to move forward with the withdrawal, passing an emergency resolution. Council members cited a lack of change and negotiation on the EMD’s part, as well as a need for more time to set up the city’s own emergency medical services prior to Jan. 1, as the reasons for moving forward with the split.
Along with Gray, EMD employees Carla Blazier and Amber Bidwell stated at the EMD’s Sept. 18 meeting that the public should have had a say about the split.
In their letter to the city, the EMD board states, “It is disappointing to the board that the city took action to withdraw without the city of London residents being afforded the opportunity to vote on the issue.”