BELPRE - The president of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department verbally approved Tuesday the city administrators' suggested solution to keep emergency medical technicians in the city.
During the Belpre City Council meeting Monday evening, Mayor Mike Lorentz announced his and Safety-Service Director Dave Ferguson's suggestion of the city ending its four-year contract for third-party billing on medical squad runs and allow the fire department to create its own contract.
"I haven't had a chance to discuss this suggestion with the (fire department) board of directors, but it is a good plan," said Eric Sinnett II, president of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department. "The idea the administration proposed, I think, is the best possible option."
Photos by Jolene Craig
Eric Sinnett II, president of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department, speaks during the July 8 Belpre City Council meeting regarding the monetary issues the department face. On Aug. 26, the city administration announced a possible solution to the problem, which Sinnett said is the best possible outcome.
Lorentz made the suggestion following more than a month of discussions among the city's administration, fire department officials and council members.
"By having council drop the city's contract with MCA (Medical Claims Assistance) and having the fire department do their own contract, the city will be relieved of the burden of added employees and our residents will still have the professional services they are used to," the mayor said.
In May 2009, council passed the final readings of legislation to allow the city to contract with MCA, a company that provides third-party ambulance billing, to bill people taken to area hospitals by Belpre Volunteer Fire Department squads.
Belpre VFD?Meeting Notes
* An official with the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department has verbally approved of the city administrators' possible monetary solution to help keep four emergency medical technicians (EMT)/firefighters.
* Eric Sinnett II, president of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department, said he has not had a chance to discuss the plan with the fire department association, but does not see any opposition and believes the proposal to be the best possible solution for the department's problems.
* Sinnett said while Belpre City Council and the fire department have paperwork and other items to be filled out and approved before the department's budgetary issues are cleared, but he does not expect there to be a disruption in service.
Since the contract began four years ago, the fire department has received 20 percent of the funds collected while the city received 80 percent. The solution suggested by Lorentz and Ferguson would reverse this division of funds collected and give the fire department the 80 percent majority.
"Not only will the money we get from this (upcoming) contract cover the EMTs salaries, but also equipment and other things the fire department and firefighters would like," said Sinnett. "This plan will allow the fire department, EMTs, firefighters, city and residents to all benefit."
Lorentz said the reversed division of collected funds will not only cover the EMTs and medical supplies for the ambulances, but also other equipment the fire department needs to operate safely.
""The 20 percent the city will receive will cover the new squad loan and assist us with maintaining our property investments," the mayor said.
Sinnett said the amount of money collected through the third-party squad billing fluctuates based on the number of runs the department does.
"Last year's total was about $170,000 for more than 800 runs, but we have already done as many squad runs this year and it's not over," he said. "The amount we will get from the billing will be different each year, but will benefit everyone."
It is unknown when the city's contract will be ended by council and the fire department will begin its own contract.
Sinnett said he does not expect there to be a disruption in EMT services, as they had previously been expected to end Nov. 1.
"There shouldn't be an issue for the fire department or EMTs," Sinnett said. "I am very grateful to the mayor, safety-service director and council for the great job they have done in helping us."