2012-11-03 / Editorials & Letters

Vote “NO” for better EMS service

Buckeye Lake Village voters can help themselves next Tuesday by voting ‘NO’ on the renewal of the village’s five year, five mill fire levy. It’s rare for a newspaper to urge readers to reject a fire levy. After all, any of us at any time, might need emergency medical services or fire protection. We expect good service and are willing to pay for it.

That expectation is broken in Buckeye Lake Village. Neither residents nor visitors are receiving even mediocre emergency medical service, much less the claimed “excellent” service. The Beacon’s now seven-part series has clearly demonstrated that the Buckeye Lake Fire Department’s emergency medical services are not acceptable. You have the chance to do something about it.

Property owners are paying five mills for fire/EMS services with the levy generating about $228,000 a year for the department. That five mills is slightly less than Hebron and Millersport/Walnut Township taxpayers pay, but significantly more than paid by Licking and Union township taxpayers.

Our investigation now covers seven months of shift schedules and actual hours worked (March through September), plus nearly three months (August through mid-October) of detailed run records. Here’s what those records and our evaluation demonstrate:

• A casual attitude toward scheduling part-time PAID staff for the three daily PAID shifts. For March thru August, an average of 17.2 shifts per month weren’t scheduled;

• Shifts left unfilled combined with no shows significantly increase response times to your calls for help. For March thru August, an average of 25.9 percent of the shifts were unfilled;

• Treatment options for cardiac and seriously injured patients are severely limited compared to our Hebron and Millersport/Walnut Township neighbors. Hebron and both Millersport stations have at least one paramedic on-duty at all times. In Buckeye Lake, paramedics on average worked just 22.1 percent of the shifts from March thru August;

• The fire chief has ignored Mayor Rick Baker’s most significant “directive” – ask the 9-1-1 Center to dispatch mutual aid after three minutes rather the current six - eight minutes – for more than 50 days with no repercussions.

• Firefighter safety is also ignored by failing to inspect ladders for nearly four years and hoses for 19 months. Annual inspections are required.

Baker passed the buck by appointing a committee on Sept. 10 to review the fire department. In eight weeks, the committee has met twice. Council members have shown no urgency in addressing the deficiencies. Village officials appear to be waiting to see whether voters approve the renewal next week.

If voters look the other way and approve the renewal, the review committee will likely fade away and it will be business as usual at the fire department with its leaders more interested in saving Buckeye Lake runs than saving patients.

Voters have the risk-free option of rejecting the renewal on Tuesday. Your “NO” vote will force village officials to take your concerns seriously or face another renewal defeat next May. It shows that you are watching and expect much better service.

A “NO” vote is risk-free both this November and next May as the village will continue to collect the current levy through 2013. Next November will be the third and final opportunity to approve the renewal without affecting tax collections.

Vote “NO” to get the service you deserve and that your neighbors already have!

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