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Hebron agrees to fire/EMS contract extension

HEBRON – Tough questions were asked before Hebron Village Council agreed to a two-month extension of Union Township’s 2008 contract with the Hebron Fire Department. Council convened a special meeting Dec. 26 to discuss Union Township Trustees’ request to extend their current contract with the Hebron Fire Department for two months while all parties decide what to do with EMS billing revenue.

The trustees want Hebron to share revenue generated from township EMS runs with the township government so the trustees may reduce the township’s EMS expenses – Union Township pays for 60 percent of the cost of Hebron Fire Department’s operations. Some council members said they understood EMS billing revenue goes directly to the fire department and there is no village or township “share.”

According to a draft of the minutes from the Dec. 26 council meeting, Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason told council members that trustees signed an extension agreement Dec. 23.

Council member Erin Finkes asked why the trustees want extra time. Mason said they want to assemble a work group to discuss the 2009 fire and EMS contract and specifically the EMS billing issue. Hebron needed a contract in place by Dec. 31, but the trustees weren’t comfortable signing on the dotted line until the EMS billing issue is resolved. Mason said council member Annelle Porter met with John Slater, trustee president, to discuss the contract and Slater expressed his concerns with the EMS billing.

Finkes said she understood EMS billing revenue is the fire department’s, not the village’s or township’s, and the revenue is destined to reduce the department’s overall budget. She said the fire department’s contract serves Union Township and Finkes didn’t understand why the trustees believe the revenue should be divided and sent to them. She added that the trustees said previously that they want nothing to do with the operation of the fire department and managing its budget is part of its operation.

Mason said he contacted MED 3000 – a Pittsburgh based medical administration company that manages the fire department’s EMS billing – which is providing him with information explaining federal law, which defines how the revenue may be used. Mason added that a MED 3000 representative said Union Township cannot contract with an EMS provider.

Finkes said she still didn’t understand the trustees’ extension request because the village pays for the department’s operations and they’re really none of the township’s concern. Mason said the main reason for the extension is to buy time to negotiate a contract before Feb. 28, if possible.

Finkes said the extension is based on 2008 rates and the department is dealing with 2009 rates. Also, she said the village solicitor should negotiate with the township from then on, not the fire chief.

Mason said the fire chief will no longer negotiate and Mason spoke with village solicitor Wes Untied, who suggested Mason participate in negotiations because he’s a career fire fighter and familiar with fire departments and EMS billing. Mason asked council members if they would like to be part of the negotiating team. It’s unlikely Untied, who is also a Licking County prosecutor, will participate, at least in early negotiations.

Finkes said if council agrees to the extension, she believes council members should renegotiate the amount because the village loses money by extending the 2008 contract amount.

Porter said she hopes this will be only extension because she can envision extension requests well into 2009.

Council unanimously approved the extension.

In a related matter, Union Township Trustee Jessie Ours mentioned during the trustees’ regularly scheduled meeting Monday night that there is discussion at the Ohio Township Association level about possible legislation to hold those who damage township roads with large trucks responsible for repair.

According to the Ohio Township Association’s Priority Booklet, the outward migration to the unincorporated areas has caused an increase of traffic on township roads, especially by heavy commercial vehicles. Businesses that produce heavy truck traffic, such as mining, logging, corporate farming, and solid waste to name a few, and do damage to township roads, should be required to provide financial help to the township in which the business resides for infrastructure improvements.

Heidi Fought, Ohio Township Association Director of Government Affairs, said legislation hasn’t been introduced, but noted many trustees are asking for assistance. Some Southern Ohio townships, particularly those with logging companies, are spending their entire road budgets repairing roads damaged by log trucks, while other township roads remain in disrepair.

Fought said many township roads are not built to the same specifications as state roads, and they crumble under constant truck traffic. “This is brand new to our priority list,” she said. Although legislation has not yet been introduced, the concept is gaining popularity among Ohio township trustees.

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