EMS debate changes course

Commissioners consider options to improve EMS service

OSCEOLA COUNTY — After a special meeting packed with disgruntled northwest Osceola County residents, the Osceola County Board of Commissioners offered new suggestions to resolve the issue of Emergency Medical Service base locations. At a long regular meeting last Tuesday morning, board members presented ideas for adding space onto local fire barns to house ambulances and crews, increasing the EMS millage to fund a fourth base in the county and building a fourth base with three EMS crews rotating bases each week. Since the board began focusing its efforts on determining how to best improve EMS response times in the county a year ago, it has been met with opposition from residents in the county’s northwest quadrant, who want an EMS base in their community. One EMS base with ambulance and crew housing exists in Reed City, while ambulances are also housed in the Evart and Marion fire halls and crews are stationed in nearby houses. The northwest quadrant does not have an EMS base. After a November decision to build a permanent EMS base in Marion, residents from Burdell and Sherman townships brought various concerns to the board of commissioners to almost every regular meeting. At last Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners asked for those residents to step up and offer a solution, rather than continually state their complaints. Tiedt also suggested an arangement in which a base be built in the northwest quadrant, and three ambulance crews shift from base to base, leaving one base vacant each week. Interim EMS director Jeremy Beebe said Tiedt’s idea may not be financially plausible under the parameters set by union contracts. “Employees are assigned a base and can only move a certain number of times. I have to pay them extra every time they move,” Beebe said. Commission Larry Emig, who has a 30-year history in the community, gave audience members a review of the EMS project, discussing changing data from studies done by a former EMS director years ago, to studies done recently. The data now shows more or a need in the northwest quadrant than it had before, he said. “As we reviewed that information, the data was changing a little. Certainly what pushed it along was Marion offering (property),” Emig said. “That was proactive on their part.” He then proposed an idea of (rather than building a new base in Marion as was previously decided) splitting the money and building EMS housing on to the fire departments in Marion and either Tustin or LeRoy. The board directed Beebe to meet with the fire boards from each community and determine the possibility of adding EMS housing to the fire barns. Also at the meeting, Frank Bednarek, associate from Hooker and DeJong, the architect and engineering firm selected by the board to complete designs for a new building, presented a design that was 50 percent complete. The design included adjustments suggested by Beebe after seeing a first draft of the building. The proposed building has an estimated construction cost of between $327,283 and $410,305. “Its a very simple plan,” Bednarek said. “It as a two-unit garage with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.” After being questioned on the design, Bednaraek said the planned building must have two bathrooms, be a certain height and include other items such as a sprinkler system to remain up to code. Current EMS facilities in the county do not include such specs because they are “grandfathered” in to new laws regarding emergency facilities. Commissioners directed Bednarek to complete the plans that have been started while other options are discussed. The next meeting of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners will be at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 2 at the Osceola County building.