06-01-2017 Hartford officials discuss forming joint committee to help Medic 1 improve local service;
Hartford officials discuss forming joint committee to help Medic 1 improve local service
By Nancy Albright
At a joint session of the City of Hartford and Hartford Township held on Wednesday, May 24, officials resumed discussions regarding the operation of Medic 1 Ambulance service in the Hartford area where they left off at the joint session held on March 7, 2017.
As several officials were quick to point out, they were not there to discuss retaining Medic 1 services, which Hartford has used since 1988. Rather, to hold an open conversation between the council, township, Medic 1 representatives, and the public in attendance regarding steps that can be taken to improve area emergency services.
Township Supervisor Ron Sefcik opened the discussion with concerns about what he considers to be a large discrepancy in charges for emergency services between Hartford and Watervliet during the 2016 fiscal year, where Medic 1 responded to over 650 calls.
One emergency vehicle is allocated to Hartford and the cost of that vehicle is shared with Watervliet Township. The total amount paid for one full-time ALS unit over a twelve month period was $561,629.10. Hartford’s share was $375,385.53 and the cost to Watervliet was $186,243.57, creating a differential of $189,141.96.
Medic 1 Board Chairman Pete Sinclair explained that the variance in cost may be due in part to the fact that Watervliet has a large number of wheelchair calls due to U.S. Renal Care Watervliet Dialysis. Medic 1 charges patients just $60 for roundtrip service per call. Medic 1 operations manager Bob Hale then stated that many drug-related calls come in from Hartford which incurs higher costs.
The financial discussion was tabled there.
Covert Fire Department weighs in
In a letter to Medic 1 dated May 23, 2017, Covert Fire Department Chief Doug Myers stated that, “Over the past year or so our agency has been increasingly requested by Medic 1 to take calls for the Hartford City and Township areas, and to go on standby. Although we pride ourselves in our relationships with outside organizations, this particular relationship seems to be heavily one-sided.”
Chief Myers went on to say that it is difficult to explain to his taxpayers why they are “continually left without coverage” and that the department is unwilling to come to the aid of a for-profit agency that “does not return the favor.” This causes problems for Covert, as well as Hartford that experiences 20-minute response times when Covert is in standby status because Medic 1 does not address the issue.
In conclusion, Chief Myers informed Medic 1 that they will no longer go on standby until an agreement with responding agencies is established that satisfies the taxpayers of both the Covert and Hartford communities.
Hartford Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Hall responded with, “We have a good mutual aid relationship with Covert and don’t want to jeopardize that.”
In response, Sinclair reiterated the dispatch protocol. Emergency vehicle operations are coordinated by Van Buren County Central Dispatch, which is operated by the County Sheriff’s Department in Paw Paw and functions as the county-wide hub for emergency fleet logistics. Medic 1 does not contact agencies directly to request backup. Central Dispatch is notified of requests and makes the decisions on how to best provide backup coverage to the entire service area.
Many members of the joint session voiced their concern that Chief Myers’ letter was written the day before the joint session was to take place and that there were no Covert representatives present at the meeting.
Joint committee may be the answer
Sefcik suggested forming a joint committee to meet on a quarterly or monthly basis that includes representatives from Hartford City and Township, the Hartford Fire Department, Watervliet Township and Medic 1, as a vehicle to set parameters to improve area ambulance service.
Township trustee John McClellan agreed and suggested a maximum of two representatives from each named entity. “The fewer people on the committee from each entity involved the more directly issues can be addressed. We don’t want to take minutes and waste hours. Residents come first. Service comes first. There is an undercurrent of feeling here that has nothing to do with the health and safety and well-being of our residents. There is no benefit from people bringing their own agendas and vendettas to the table to cloud the issue.” Sefcik agreed, “We need to hang egos at the door. We all agree that we want to serve our resident community in the best possible way.”
McClellan suggested setting up a decision matrix consisting of a specific set of criteria by which to measure Medic 1 service, including vehicle response times, emergency personnel training and years of experience, and the current state of available emergency equipment, i.e., is it the best available.
Sefcik agreed that response times are a critical part of this equation and stated that he would like to see more detail from Medic 1 on a more frequent basis. Sefcik requested that Medic 1 Operations Director Bob Hale provide this information to the appropriate parties on a monthly basis, to which Hale agreed, is doable.
Watervliet Township trustee Joe Stepich also attended the meeting, stating that, “I came to listen. Whatever Hartford does affects Watervliet.” Mr. Stepich said that he thinks a joint committee is a fine idea and urged Hartford officials to involve Watervliet. “Let’s put aside our grievances and look at the positives as well as the negatives to get a complete picture and make informed decisions.”
Sefcik suggested that each municipality involved ultimately decide what is best for them with respect to forming a joint committee. “We’re here to voice what we believe is the best course of action for a committee.”
All were in agreement before Sefcik adjourned the meeting that each board discusses what direction they would like to pursue and hash through the details at a future joint session.
Honoring Our Memorial Day Heroes
PARADE PROCESSION… The Watervliet police car driven by Chief Tim Sutherland leads the Watervliet Memorial Day Parade on Monday morning. Included in the parade were Veterans, Watervliet Royalty, the Watervliet High School Marching Band, Boy Scouts, and the Watervliet Fire Department. (TCR photo by Annette Christie)
PERFORMING RIGHTS… Lawrence American Legion Hess-Eastman Post 174 Honor Guard performed the salute to Veterans during observances held in Keeler Township. The premier team from Post 174 is always in high demand for area Veteran observances, perform-ing rights at four different Memorial Day services this year alone. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)
KEYNOTE SPEAKER… Wa-tervliet City Manager Michael Uskiewicz provided the address at the Memorial Day Service held in the Watervliet Cemetery. (TCR photo by Annette Chris-tie)
THE FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION… The Coloma Post 362 American Legion military rites team, including members of the Watervliet and Ben-ton Harbor Veterans of Foreign Wars, held a Memorial Day service at Coloma Cemetery Monday. Mark McKie, Commander of the Coloma AL post, spoke at the event, as did Coloma Mayor Jim Polashak, honoring the service of the men and women who died serving our country. Chaplain Pete Pe-truk gave the blessing and said, “May our memory of them be an honorable one.” (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
HARTFORD MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE… American Legion Post 533 Commander Reuben Mireles tells the story of the first Memorial Day to a crowd of several hundred spectators in attendance at observances held in Hartford’s Ely Park. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)
MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE… 66TH District State Representative Beth Griffin was the keynote speaker at a sunny and windy Keeler Cemetery honoring local Veterans. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)