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EMS levy subject of public meetings

Public meetings to discuss a 4.5-mill, 5-year property tax levy that would fund emergency medical service in Harris Township and the Village of Elmore are scheduled for Oct. 1 and 23 at the fire station, 321 Rice Street.

The meetings are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Voters will decide the levy in the November election.

Carol Baker, who chairs the township board of trustees, said the village and township since 1975 have depended primarily on volunteers for the emergency service but the number of volunteers has been decreasing – from 15 in 2008 to eight currently.

She said family and job obligations as well as increasing training requirements have contributed to the decrease in volunteers.

“An average EMS run takes over two hours from transport to paperwork,” she said. “In addition to emergency calls and bi-weekly drills, EMT volunteers provide service at athletic events, local festivals and other community events.”

The levy, if passed, will generate about $289,500 annually, according to the Ottawa County auditor.

The trustees are proposing to have a paramedic on duty at the station 24 hours a day and to increase the day-time hours of emergency medical technicians.

The added personnel, Baker said, should significantly reduce response times and the care available during hospital transports.

The township, since November 2007, has hired part-time emergency medical technicians to be at the station from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week and has relied on volunteers for service during the evening and weekends.

Calls for service have risen over the years: in 2011 there were 299; 326 in 2012, and 233 through August of this year.

“Unfortunately, there are no current volunteers employed within the township,” Baker said. “Providing day-time coverage is difficult.”

Last year, the township spent about $129,000 for the service - $73,912 on salaries and benefits and $54,394 on equipment, supplies, insurance, fuel, and maintenance costs.

To cover those costs, the township has relied on insurance billing and a mutual aid contract that generated a total of about $100,000 and other tax revenues.

This year, the trustees anticipate costs for the service to surpass $150,000 due primarily to an increase in personnel hours.

Compounding the revenue situation, the township has seen its share of local government funding from the state drop by about $17,237 annually since 2011.

Next year, the trustees anticipate having to purchase new monitoring equipment – which comes with a price tag of about $60,000 – as well as other upgrades.

With personnel costs rising and other expenses, the budget next year could reach $398,000, the trustees project.

As a candidate for re-election, Baker has been going door-to-door in the village and township and said she’s heard many positive comments about the professionalism of the EMS personnel.   

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