Commission questions EMS service to Clare

OSCEOLA COUNTY — A long-standing verbal agreement to provide free Emergency Medical Services  to a Clare County township will end next year if the township does not begin to pay for the service.

At last Tuesday’s meeting of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners, a motion was approved stating Winterfield Township residents must pay 1 mil of taxes by Sept. 30, 2013, or EMS services to the northwest Clare County township would stop. The motion was approved by a 6-1 vote, with commissioner Ron Sikkema voting no.

The agreement began years ago when the Marion and Winterfield Township Fire Departments merged. Since an Osceola County ambulance is housed in the Marion Fire Department, the county agreed to provide EMS services to Winterfield Township as well, said EMS interim director Jeremy Beebe.

Over the past few years, residents have expressed concerns with Winterfield Township receiving EMS coverage for free while Osceola County residents pay 1 mil in taxes for the service.

According to board meeting minutes, on March 15, 2011, the board approved a request asking Winterfield Township residents to pay 1 mill to Osceola County for ambulance services. The board also approved a written draft in May.

After being asked to investigate Winterfield Township’s response to the request, interim EMS director Jeremy Beebe contacted township officials, who said a 1 mil millage would garner nearly $44,000 from Clare County residents for Osceola County EMS, which may be more than they are willing to pay.

“We’ve spent over a year in (negotiations) with them. I’d be of the mind to say let’s terminate the agreement,” said board chairman Dave Brooks during the meeting.

If the agreement is terminated, Osceola County EMS still can respond through mutual aid agreements, which the service has with all surrounding counties.

In other business, the board approved housing an additional ambulance in the Marion Fire Department.

The board also changed the date of its special meeting to 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 at the Commission on Aging meal site, located at 213 Neilson St. in Tustin.

The goal of the meeting will be to communicate future plans for addressing the issues of EMS coverage to the the northwest quadrant of the county as well as explain the goal of an additional ambulance unit in Marion.

The next regular meeting of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners will be at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 18 at the Osceola County Courthouse.