Plans for new EMS district underway

By Jennifer Woods - [email protected]

After several years of disagreement and misunderstandings, a “Joint Ambulance District” (EMS District) within Fayette County is now in the process of being formed while a county-wide EMS levy will no longer be on the ballot.

Residents are familiar with the county-wide levy and system as it has been providing emergency medical services throughout the county for several years; however, the May 8, 2018 election included two EMS levies that were passed by voters.

One levy secured funding for the Fayette County (county-wide) Ambulance and EMS service at 1.3 mills for three years. The new levy was for Jefferson Township Ambulance and EMS service at 5 mills.

Due to these circumstances, property owners who live in Jefferson Township have been and are still paying taxes for both the county-wide and Jefferson EMS services.

Jefferson Township is one of 10 townships in Fayette County—located in the northeastern part of the county. It includes Jeffersonville and part of Octa village.

Within the last three years, there have been several discussions as to how to alleviate this taxation and whose responsibility it is to create an EMS District.

Essentially, an EMS District is a group of townships and municipalities (townships, villages, cities, etc.) that join together to cover the costs of and to receive EMS services. The District has its own board and management separate from the county.

Forming a district allows the various municipalities within the county to decide if they will join the district to receive EMS services or to not join.

For example, with a county-wide system, Jefferson Township cannot opt out of a county-wide levy and residents must pay into it. By forming a district, Jefferson Township can decide to opt out of the district, so Jefferson Township residents will not pay for or get services from the EMS District. Instead, they will be covered only by the Jefferson Township EMS services.

To form a district, township trustees, and village and city officials must decide if they will be part of this new district or not. The City of Washington Court House has already indicated that it will be joining the new district to provide EMS services to residents of the city — and has passed legislation to do just that.

Municipalities that choose to be part of the district will pay into the new levy if/when it passes and the county-wide levy expires. Municipalities that choose not to join the EMS District will not have to pay into the levy, but also won’t receive EMS services. They would have to find another entity to contract with or go without EMS services for their residents.

Once the district is formed with municipalities having agreed or not agreed to join the district, a board of representatives will be formed, according to the Fayette County Commissioners. That board will then meet and vote on the levy to place on the ballot to ensure EMS services can be provided. Once on the ballot, residents within the proposed district can vote for or against it. If passed, the EMS District will be funded. If failed, there will most likely be no EMS services once the county-wide levy expires, commissioners said.

More information on a potential levy will be released after the board is formed and decides on the specifics.

According to information from Commissioner Jim Garland, the following information has often been asked and was answered earlier this month for township trustees.

Will the EMS District:

own the squad building and parking lot? No, the county will maintain ownership but will lease the building to the District.

own the squad vehicles? Yes, the ambulances and contents will be the property of the District.

pay for all repairs to the building? Yes, the District will pay for repairs/upkeep of the building.

pay for all repairs to the squad vehicles? Yes, the District will pay for any repairs to squad vehicles.

pay all payroll salaries? Yes, the District will be responsible for paying all payroll.

hire/fire employees? No, hire/fire and other personnel issues will be taken care of by the District management team (EMS Director/Chief). There may be a pathway for any unresolved issues to be heard by the board.

need to purchase more buildings? Not at the onset. Additional buildings may be purchased in the future if needed and as approved by the Board.

be able to take on other townships at a later date? Yes, any township or municipal corporation can join an already established ambulance district with a majority vote of the township trustees or legislative board of the municipality and upon approval of the district board.

be able to take on a township outside of the county? Yes.

be able to take on part of a township? Yes.

take patients to out-of-county hospitals for special cases? Yes.

get charged from Sheriff Dispatch? No.

decide on pay scale? Yes.

Other questions asked and answered include:

Can a township or municipal corporation withdraw from a District? Yes, any township or municipal corporation can withdraw from an ambulance district with a majority vote of the township trustees or legislative board of the municipality.

Will all townships/ municipalities have one representative on the EMS Board? Yes.

Will a township/ municipality be required to have a person on the EMS Board? Yes.

Will a township/ municipality be able to appoint a person to represent their township? Yes.

With a possible 14 entities within Fayette County, what is the smallest number needed (to form a District)? Two.

After formation of the EMS Board, how many meetings will there be in a year? 6-12 as decided by the board: cannot exceed 15 meetings per year.

How much will each EMS Board member be paid? To be determined and as decided by the EMS Board: not to exceed $75 plus expenses per meeting.

So far, the townships and municipalities that have agreed to join the district, according to the Commissioners’ Office, include: the City of Washington Court House, Concord Township, Green Township, Wayne Township, Paint Township, Union Township, Madison Township, Marion Township, Jasper Township, and the villages of Milledgeville and Bloomingburg.

Townships and municipalities that have turned down joining the district, according to the Commissioners’ Office, include: Jefferson Township and the Village of Jeffersonville.

The commissioners have not received a response yet from the Village of New Holland or the Village of Octa. Perry Township has yet to give a final answer, although part of the township, according to Garland, has shown interest in joining the District.

“The District will be good for townships to have some input to make it best for (those) citizens,” explained Garland.

Have questions or want clarification on something involving this complicated topic? Email concerns or questions to journalist Jennifer Woods at [email protected]

Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.

By Jennifer Woods

[email protected]