Tension rises, residents threaten lawsuit

OSCEOLA COUNTY — In a tense, three-hour meeting on Feb. 19, the Osceola County Board of Commissioners heard county northwest quadrant residents say the same thing they have said for the past year, but this time they threatened legal action. Officials from Burdell, Sherman, LeRoy and Rose Lake townships want a plan to improve what they feel is inadequate Emergency Medical Service to their portion of the county. In public comment both before and after the committee of the whole meeting, northwest quadrant residents expressed their concerns with the lack of service. The issue, which has been discussed for many years, has recently become an ongoing point of contention between board members as well as county residents since the Nov. 6 vote to build a permanent EMS base in Marion — the county’s Northeast quadrant. “We ask you not to move forward with plans (in Marion) until a plan is in place to improve service to the Northwest quadrant,” said David Eggle, supervisor of Burdell Township. EMS bases currently exist in Reed City, Evart and Marion, two in the county’s southern half and one in the northeast quadrant. Due to the lack of a plan to increase service in some way to the Northwest quadrant also,as of Feb. 12, Rose Lake, Burdell, Sherman and LeRoy townships had all voted to join together in possible law suit against the county regarding EMS. Upon the direction of the board, EMS Director Jeremy Beebe proposed several options to improve service to the Northwest quadrant of the county at the meeting. His recommended option included operating a fourth transporting ambulance on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, that would be stationed in the Northwest quadrant, an option that would cost the county an estimated $16,000 per year. Around $12,000 already has been allocated toward the issue. “To save money, we could have the director or assistant director cover one of those days. In their eight-hour shift, they would work on the ambulance instead of working in the office,” Beebe said. “In EMS, there is downtime. The director and assistant director both have laptops. The Tustin Firehall has WiFi, so they could have a mobile office. That would save around $800 (from other options).” He also presented an option of having a full-time fourth ambulance, which would require voters to approve an additional millage. “If we commit to a fourth ambulance 365 days a year, that cannot be supported by our current budget,” Beebe said. Also at the meeting, the board heard from Mark Hammer, supervisor of Clare County’s Winterfield Township, which currently utilizes the county’s EMS service for no charge. In 2012, the board decided that the township should pay for the service, or it would end in September of 2013. Hammer offered the board $10,000 a year from the township to pay for the service. The board will consider the request as well as the proposed EMS options and make decisions at a later date. The next meeting of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners will be at 9:30 a.m. on March 5 in the Board of Commissioners room at the Osceola County building.