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Trustees hold up contract over EMS billing issue

HEBRON – Union Township Trustees don’t believe that the EMS billing dispute between them and the Village of Hebron is completely resolved.

Monday night, they decided to ask Hebron to extend their 2008 contract with the Hebron Fire Department into February to provide time to negotiate the use of EMS billing revenue.

Trustee Jack Justice said during the trustees’ regular meeting Monday that they were not aware they needed to submit a formal request to the Hebron Village Council to receive information directly from Med3000 – a Pittsburgh based EMS billing management company – regarding the amount of EMS billing revenue that township EMS runs are generating. They learned during the Dec. 10 Hebron Village Council meeting that they needed to present a formal request to council. Hebron Fire Chief Randy Weekly told the trustees Monday night that he wasn’t aware they needed to request the information formally, either. Justice said he trusts that Weekly would’ve told the trustees had he known.

“Ultimately, we got scolded,” said Trustee President John Slater. “We’d like to think we’re a significant part of the (fire) department.”

Justice said the communication between the council and the trustees used to be “wonderful,” but it’s deteriorated over the years. “The meeting last week proved we’re unappreciated,” he said. Justice said the trustees put nearly $700,000 into the Hebron Fire Department and if the money isn’t appreciated, it should go somewhere else. “I think they (the council) would be more content if we weren’t there,” he said. Justice felt like contract discussions were off to the side during the Dec. 10 meeting with Hebron officials. He said his only remaining contract issues relate to the EMS billing revenue.

Monday night, trustees discussed contract options, such as approving the Hebron Fire Department’s request for approximately $584,000, while subtracting the more than $53,000 collected from insurers for EMS transports in Union Township. That sum represents collections in Union Township since the billing program began in July 2007.

Another option discussed was to approve the requested contract price for 2009 after subtracting 60 percent of the EMS billing revenue. The rationale for that reduction is based on the township paying 60 percent of the department’s expenses. Trustees ultimately decided to seek a two-month extension of the 2008 contract to allow time to negotiate the township’s role in determining how the EMS billing revenue will be used.

Justice said he’s fully aware that all EMS billing revenue goes into the Hebron Fire Department’s account, but if a new squad is purchased with EMS billing revenue generated in the township, then the new squad (or whatever new piece of equipment) should be titled to the township. Of course, it would not be limited to use in the township.

The trustees also wondered who receives the credit for EMS billing revenue generated by mutual aid runs. Since mutual aid runs are outside the village, said Justice, who gets the credit? Weekly will separate mutual aid run information for trustees.

Slater said township residents are telling him that the EMS billing revenue generated in the township needs to credit the township in some manner. If nothing is agreed upon, township residents will be angered. “People in the township think this money should go to the township in some manner,” he said.

Justice said he believes all the current housing foreclosures and mortgage defaults will cut property tax collections, which makes crediting some of the EMS billing revenue to the township even more important.

Wednesday, Slater said trustees and village council members want to improve communication. He expects at least one of the trustees will attend most village meetings and Slater added the trustees now clearly understand they need to address any concerns directly to council and not through Weekly or another village employee.

Slater said he’s quite certain the township and village can reach an agreement for fire/EMS services and allocation of the EMS billing revenue. “Oh yeah, I think we can,” he said. But, negotiation will be necessary. Allocation of the EMS billing revenue will need to be part of the written contract. That’s bound to take a while, he said, so the village and township may enter into a short-term contract while the terms of a firnal 2009 fire/EMS services contract are reached.

In other township news:

• Trustees agreed to spend $15,075.50 to purchase a white 2008 Chevrolet four-wheel-drive Trailblazer with 14,000 miles for the Union Township Police Department. Justice, a retiree who works for Coughlin Automotive Group part-time, said Coughlin received 10 low-mileage Trailblazers and quickly sold all but two of them. He said Trailblazers are being discontinued and are very inexpensive. Slater and Trustee Jessie Ours said they would inspect the vehicle before making the final purchase. Justice abstained from the vote.

Slater commented that another local police department was heavily criticized in the media for purchasing a sport utility vehicle for police use, but noted much of Union Township is rural and he believes a four-wheel-drive is necessary.

Slater said Wednesday that Union Township currently has three police vehicles counting the Trailblazer. One of the vehicles is out of service and will be sold. “It’s not up to specs for use as a police cruiser,” he said.

• The trustees also approved the purchase of a $4,700 snow plow blade for one of the township’s two pick-up trucks, primarily to plow township subdivisions. Trustees previously commented that their larger dump trucks, which plow the main roads, often drive over the edge of the narrow subdivision roads. Those edges are often completely hidden under even a couple inches of snow. Since the dump trucks are not four-wheeldrive, they often need to be towed from the ditches lining subdivision roads.

Justice said a private company would charge a total of $150 each time it plowed the Stone Creek and Chantilly subdivisions.

Slater said Wednesday that hiring the private company may be less expensive than purchasing the plow blade in the short term, but the blade will last several years, saving the township money in the long run.

• The trustees’ end of the year meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 23, in the Township Hall.

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