Council votes in support of fire-based EMS plan

The Aurora City Council made its position clear Tuesday on the issue of who should handle local ambulance service after the county ends its existing EMS service, which is scheduled to expire Oct. 1.
After hearing emotional testimony from six local citizens during a public comment period, the council unanimously passed a motion endorsing the city’s proposal to offer a fire-based EMS service.
“I feel the right way to move forward is with the fire-based emergency medical service program provided in the Emergency Medical Services Committee report,” Councilman Dick Phillips said. “At this point, I would not support a private ambulance service.”
City Administrator Rick Melcher explained after the meeting that the motion was not an indication of the city’s intent to move forward with its EMS plan, but was instead intended as a position statement to inform the community of the council’s choice among the four proposals.
County commissioners voted in January to end ownership and management of the existing ambulance service effective Oct. 1, which is now approximately six weeks away. In addition to the city’s fire-based EMS option, commissioners have heard proposals from three private entities -- Rescue 28, Midwest Medical Transport Company and South Central EMS LLC.
Don Adams, a member of the county’s EMS staff, was listed on Tuesday’s agenda and spoke about his concerns with the pending transition.
“I am here to speak to you as a citizen of Aurora, a husband and a father,” Adams began. “In about 40 days there is a very real possibility that unless this council takes action, there will be no ambulance service for the citizens of Aurora. The thought that one of my family members will need emergency care and if they make a 911 emergency call no one will be coming is terrifying.”
When that comment was made public on the News-Register’s website Wednesday, Commissioner Gregg Kremer responded, saying citizens can be assured there will not be a disruption in ambulance service.
“In about 40 days, there is no possibility that there will not be someone ready to respond when someone calls 911,” he said. “There is going to be 911 service every single day of this year.”
When asked to explain whether that meant the deadline might be extended or that a new entity will be in place by Oct. 1, Kremer declined to discuss possible scenarios, adding that commissioners are preparing to discuss the issue at Monday’s county board meeting.
Adams encouraged city leaders to move forward with their own fire-based EMS plan, saying that he and other members of the existing ambulance crew would not go to work for one of the private EMS companies if the city’s plan doesn’t go forward.
“It is discouraging that some individuals worry more about money than taking care of people,” he said. “You folks care about running a good, stable and feasible service while others focus solely on how much it costs, but we’re talking about people’s lives here.
“Think about the amount of dedication it takes to have these paramedics and EMTs under the impression that in 48 days they will no longer have a job, yet they are still here putting citizens of this community before themselves, hoping that Aurora will do what it always does -- the right thing,” he added.
Regardless of any other factors, Adams said he firmly believes that if the council made the decision to start its own ambulance service, support for that plan would “come out of the woodwork.”
“There are countless citizens approaching us, asking what they need to do to help,” he said. “If one of the private companies is brought in to take over ambulance operations, then the skilled, capable, dedicated men and women currently serving our community will leave. Myself, personally, I would have to look elsewhere. I ask you to please do the right thing. Your city will be stronger and safer if you do.”
Adams’ comments drew applause from a crowd of approximately 30 people, as well as some members of the council.
Mayor Dave Long then invited others in the audience to speak, drawing comments from Wayne Brehm, Evonne Bradley, Bonnie Campbell, Pat Willis and Terry Willis. All expressed support for the city’s fire-based EMS plan, with one asking why the issue has not been put to a public vote.
Mayor Long said last week that city leaders are prepared to make a presentation on the fire-based plan to any group that wants to hear more information, though he and the council are waiting for the Hamilton County Board to make a decision on which of the four proposals will be selected.
“I think it’s only fair in the short-term to see what the county does,” Long said in an earlier interview. “Long-term, we have to look at all options. I don’t know what the private companies’ next move is until the county makes a decision. I just think we’re all in limbo until that happens and I’m concerned that all partners are on board for every one of them.”

 

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