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Aging ambulances worry East Palestine fire chief

September 2, 2012
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

EAST PALESTINE - The village fire department is working with an aging ambulance fleet and the backup isn't even reliable, Chief Brett Todd told council this week.

Todd said the department's three ambulances have high mileage and the oldest is about 15 years old.

The department typically uses two of the ambulances for regular calls and the oldest as backup. There have been times, he said, when the third ambulance was needed but couldn't make it to a call.

One time in particular the two ambulances were already on calls, and yet another emergency call was picked up at the station. Emergency responders jumped into the backup only to find that it wouldn't even start, he said.

Village Manager Pete Monteleone told Todd the village is set to pay off a loan in 2015 and after that, the money could be put toward purchasing a new ambulance.

But Todd said that's too long to wait.

"Right now our newest ambulance is about six years old and has (a lot of miles on it). If you're waiting until 2015 to replace that, that's stretching it, it doesn't make me feel comfortable at all," he said.

Finance Director Traci Thompson said the department is in "desperate need" of a new ambulance, but also noted there isn't money available in the general fund for the new equipment.

The village is already looking at trimming $104,000 from the 2013 projected budget in order to start the new year with a balance.

Included in balancing the budget is not fulfilling a request from Todd to increase the department's budget by $125,000 for next year, she said.

Councilwoman Endia Wisser said Todd sent council members a letter recently about the budget cut the department took nine years ago.

She said at that time Todd was under the impression the budget cut was only supposed to be from October to December to "help the city out," but when the legislation was passed by council he learned it was a total cut.

She suggested the department's income from its ambulance billing be given back to the department directly instead of going into the general fund.

Thompson explained the income is put into the general fund because the fire department and EMS employees are paid out of that fund. The police, finance and administration departments are also paid out of the general fund.

Thompson also explained that taking the money out of the general fund will mean even less money in the 2013 budget, which already needs cut. The $104,000 in cuts Thompson is proposing must come from the general fund.

Todd said it is getting more difficult to run the department since training is becoming more expensive.

"As the state budget crunches it trickles down to us, which puts us in a world of hurt. That's why I'm saying I'd like a bigger piece of the general fund. We try our best to operate on our general income, but it's not easy," he said.

According to the estimated 2013 budget, the department is expected to operate on $285,944 that year.



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