2009-05-09 / Editorials & Letters

Biting the hand that feeds you!

That's the only way you can describe the Village of Buckeye Lake's efforts to take over Hebron's contract with Union Township for fire/EMS services.

Hebron's fire department has been providing fire/EMS services for the unincorporated portions of Union Township south of the CSX railroad line for years. Union Township pays about 60 percent of the department's expenses and has purchased several pieces of rolling equipment for the department's use. In recent years, the annual renewal negotiations have often become contentious. The disagreements seem to stem from Trustee Jack Justice's personality conflicts with some Hebron officials. This year is no different, though the 'issues' seem to be continuing longer than normal.

Meanwhile, the Hebron Fire Department, joined in recent years by the Millersport Fire Department, helps hold together EMS services in the Village of Buckeye Lake. In the past five years (2004 - 2008), Hebron has averaged 114 EMS runs per year to Buckeye Lake. That's almost 10 runs per month. Annual runs range from a low of 92 in 2006 to a high of 137 in 2008. For the first four months of this year, Hebron has made 33 EMS runs to Buckeye Lake. Millersport has made 19.

Buckeye Lake has split the village in half for 'mutual aid,' with Hebron basically responsible for everything north of the lighthouse curve and Millersport for everything to the south. Their assistance comes in two forms. First, there are the instances where Buckeye Lake simply doesn't respond at all. That's happened at least 12 times in the first four months of this year in Hebron's area. Generally, it occurs between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. We don't have the details on the Millersport runs yet.

Most of the other 'mutual aid' runs are to provide a cardholder. State law requires that at least two EMT's (emergency medical technicians) be on the squad to transport a patient to the hospital. In these instances, only one Buckeye Lake cardholder responds, so Hebron or Millersport must be dispatched to drop off a cardholder so the patient can be taken to the hospital.

This day in, day out, year-after-year assistance doesn't cost the Village of Buckeye Lake a dime! Yes, since July 2007, Hebron's EMS billing service has invoiced Buckeye Lake residents - primarily their public and private insurance companies - if they are transported to the hospital. For patients without insurance, it is 'soft billing' which means unpaid bills are NOT turned over for collection.

So it is simply ludicrous for village officials and Council President Charlene Hayden in particular to be pushing to undercut Hebron's proposed contract with Union Township.

First, it is truly biting the hand that feeds you. Without Hebron's continuing assistance, Buckeye Lake's EMS services would have collapsed years ago. Maybe Hayden should ask a Highland Avenue resident with chest pains in February how he felt when Hebron responded at 5:11 a.m., some 17 minutes after Buckeye Lake was first dispatched. There was the child with breathing problems on Union Avenue in January; Hebron arrived at 5:06 a.m., some 18 minutes after Buckeye Lake was first dispatched. We could go on and on.

You simply don't hurt someone that has been helping you for so many years - EVER!

Loss of the Union Township contract would hurt Hebron - Union Township owns both its squads and an engine, plus it pays for 60 percent of the department's expenses.

Second, the Buckeye Lake Fire Department doesn't have the leadership to handle its own EMS runs, much less take on responsibility for most of Union Township. Hayden needs to pull her head out of the sand and look at how the department is handling its current responsibilities before pushing it to undercut Hebron.

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