By Scott Bolthouse
Hub Editor In Chief
The Huron Township Board of Trustees, in a 4-3 vote, approved the contract to privatize ambulance services within Huron Township during Wednesday evening’s meeting.
Supervisor Glaab, Trustee Lilly, Treasurer Spangler and Clerk VanWasshnova voted yes. Trustees Stach, Krause and Mendrysa voted against the proposal.
The proposal, which was originally dated to start on Feb. 15, 2015, calls for a Huron Valley Ambulance unit to be stationed in the township 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. This unit would be available to respond to emergencies and would be able to make runs to local hospitals if needed.
The sole cost to the township, according to the proposal, is to house the ambulance somewhere within the community.
During the over two-hour meeting, multiple residents took advantage of the public forum to make their voices heard, with the majority speaking out against the measure.
Supervisor Glaab stated that at this point in time, no layoffs would come down. However, his words weren’t necessarily easing the fears of residents and other public safety officials who were attending the meeting.
“We are not getting rid of anybody at this moment,” said Glaab. “We will reassess the department upon implementation. No decisions have been made relative to that.”
Glaab stated that his mindset is that this agreement actually benefits the residents of Huron Township. Glaab noted that if multiple emergencies happen within the township at one time, Huron’s Firefighting and EMS staff could stick around to respond to other incidents while HVA could make ambulance runs to the hospital.
“We are actually going to expand the level of service that we can make available to our residents,” said Glaab.
Even with Glaab’s attempts to show the positive side of the contract proposal, residents remained stern in their claims that layoffs will come down to the fire department.
The primary reason for the decision to privatize the EMS services is the current fiscal situation facing the operation of the fire department. An auditing official from Plant Moran gave a presentation during the meeting, stating that the fire department has subsidized it’s operations through it’s savings fund balance for 11 years.
During this time, according to the Plant Moran official, the fund’s balance has nearly been cut in half. Attempts to increase revenue through a new millage or special assessment has failed three times.
According to the presentation, absent a new revenue source, the cost structure of the fire fund will need to be adjusted in order to prevent a deficit in the future.
Treasurer Linda Spangler noted that the board did not just start looking at this issue recently and that it has been a known fact within the township’s governing body that the fire department’s funding would not be able to support how it operates.
“This is not new to any of us that sit here, it is not new to any employees of the department,” she said. “This is something this board has been dealing with for well over a year, if not prior.”
Still, multiple residents who stood up at the meeting to give their opinions mentioned the idea of a possible millage in the future to help keep EMS personnel in-house.
“We’re going from a very qualified group of people that are protecting us on a daily basis to a group or organization that we really don’t know anything about,” said Huron Township Resident David Haener.
Nate Cornwall, Union President for the Huron Township Fire Department’s full time staff, stated at the meeting that “there are operational changes that can be made that are significant.”
At the end of the meeting, the board all agreed, regardless of their individual decision to vote yes or no, that this adds some sense of closure to this item as a whole.
The outcome of the contract approval and how it will effect fire department operations is still yet to be seen.
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