Commissioners pitch long-term plan for full-time countywide ambulance service
New system would feature volunteers supplementing paid crews to improve speed, quality of service
[Tiffin, OH – Aug. 5, 2021] – The Seneca County Board of Commissioners pitched a long-term plan Thursday night for a full-time countywide ambulance service.
The commissioners presented a PowerPoint to a room full of Joint Ambulance District members, township trustees and other citizens.
The commissioners asked joint ambulance district leaders in attendance to consider if they want to continue, and strengthen the partnership that exists between the county and the townships/villages/JADs. The same group is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 2 at 7 p.m., and at that meeting, officials are expected to continue the discussion on possible paths forward.
The 15-slide presentation included operational and financial information, with a focus on urging the joint ambulance districts to combine forces to provide better service to the people of Seneca County. Board President Mike Kerschner said one way to do this would be to create a single joint ambulance district for all jurisdictions interested in moving forward with the plan.
Thursday’s PowerPoint, which is titled, “We are better when we work together,” began with a slide pointing out the many areas of common ground between the JADs and the county. These points included the mission to provide professional, timely service at a reasonable cost; the fact that volunteerism is declining; and the statement that there currently are not enough financial resources available for a full-time, four-squad or three-squad system.
Although the finances are a challenge in moving forward, the presentation states that there is more funding available than some are aware of and that this money could potentially be used better. This includes $1.2 million in carryover entering 2021 and $829,000 in projected 2021 revenue across the four JADs. Adams and Pleasant townships and Green Springs also bring in about $322,000 annually. Federal funding via the American Rescue Plan could also accelerate the timeline. These funds are combined with a county EMS budget of $1.2 million for 2021.
The commissioners were sure to thank the EMS volunteers who have built a successful system over the past 40+ years, and acknowledged the lives impacted and saved through their sacrifices. They also pointed out several times that there would always be a place in the county’s EMS system for those willing to volunteer.
Another chart was shared that displayed the county’s increased financial commitment to EMS, with spending of $735,536.65 in 2020 and a budget of $1,255,846 for 2021.
The commissioners highlighted the existing contract between the county and the JADs, which holds the districts responsible for providing a two-person, certified crew for 24 hours each day.
This was followed by a chart showing the increases in out-of-service times from 2020 to 2021.
Part of the reason for this, according to the PowerPoint, is that volunteerism is declining. In 2014, the county’s roster had 140 volunteers; in 2021 that number had dwindled to 75. Among those 75, only 54 have been on at least two runs this year while only 37 average more than two per month.
Commissioner Anthony Paradiso said a small group of people are going on most of the runs, which makes the system fragile.
After revealing several charts and pieces of data, the commissioners took some time to revisit the recent and long-term history of this issue. The commissioners have been hosting monthly meetings with interested stakeholders for nearly a year.
“We have the opportunity to do something special,” Kerschner said, adding that Zoom meetings have added a challenge to the process but that he’s proud to have all of the different representatives in the room. “We have much in common. We have the same interests, the same goals.”
Kerschner posed several potential solutions but said that in the long-term, the board believes it is important to move forward with a four-squad or three-squad model.
A four-squad solution would cost about $3.2 million, with a three-squad model being closer to $2.5 million. He also mentioned that the solution could change based on which political subdivisions want to continue their partnership with the county.
“It’s important to note that no matter what we do, we will continue to utilize volunteers,” said Seneca County Emergency Services Director Ken Majors.
The PowerPoint also notes that if one joint ambulance district was formed, excluding Tiffin, Fostoria and Clinton Township, a three-mill levy would generate about $2.7 million annually. This information was gathered from the Seneca County Auditor’s Office.
Although this is the long-term goal, the commissioners each noted that there would be several steps between now and then.
Paradiso admitted that the relationship between the county and the JADs has not always been perfect, but he challenged leaders from across the county to overcome these obstacles.
“We will be defined by how well we can come together now,” he said. “We need you if we are going to make this work.”
Kerschner said the commissioners have proven their commitment by continuing to invest in Seneca County EMS.
“We will continue to do that, as long as we know we have good partners in the JADs,” he said, noting that the districts must fully maximize non-discretionary, EMS levy money.
“We know how important it is to strengthen our partnership,” Kerschner said. “How do we do it? What are the next steps we can take?”
Paradiso ended the meeting urging those in the room to “move forward.” He said more specifics can be decided when it is clear which entities intend to continue and strengthen their partnership with each other, and with the county.