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Union Township may do its own EMS billing

HEBRON – Union Township should pass a resolution to enact its own EMS billing, advised Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Austin Lecklider, who attended a Union Township Trustees special meeting Monday night.

Trustees and Hebron Village officials have haggled for months over how to distribute and use revenue generated from EMS billing. Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies are charged whenever a covered patient is taken to a hospital.

Disagreement over EMS billing revenue has completely stalled contract negotiations between Hebron and Union Township, which provides 60 percent of the Hebron Fire Department’s operational income. Trustee President John Slater believes the township should receive 60 percent of the EMS billing revenue because it provides 60 percent of the funding. Trustees want to use the revenue to offset operational expenses.

Hebron Mayor Clifford Mason said previously that giving the township 60 percent of the EMS billing revenue is “unacceptable” and there is no equal relationship between EMS billing collected and the department’s expenses. He and village council members want to put all the revenue in a capital improvements fund that would require both parties to approve any expenditures.

Lecklider said previously that he doesn’t believe a municipality such as Hebron can collect EMS billing outside its borders, as it’s currently doing. With that in mind, he believes the township should bill for transports in the unincorporated areas of Union Township on its own. There was some question as to whether anyone besides the service provider, which in this case is Hebron, is allowed to bill. Lecklider said in his opinion the township can be considered to be a provider once it contracts with Hebron. Lecklider said the trustees could also choose not to bill residents’ insurance companies after residents are transported; transports of people who live outside of the township provide the vast majority of the department’s EMS billing revenue. He said residents already pay two fire levies. Lecklider said he met with Hebron Solicitor Wes Untied to discuss the situation. “My position hasn’t changed,” he told the trustees.

As of April 23, the Hebron Fire Department has $235,645.31 in its EMS billing revenue account. Although the village and the trustees have yet to sign a 2010 contract for service, the township paid the fire department $151,957 April 8. The next payment is due July.

Trustees opted to wait to take any action on an EMS billing resolution until after the Hebron Village Council’s April 28 meeting, where the council was to discuss the situation with Untied. The trustees may decide what to do during their May 3 meeting.

West Licking Fire Department Chief David Fulmer attended the Monday night meeting. He was there to answer questions about EMS billing, even though the West Licking department does not bill for EMS transports. Fulmer said EMS billing does not increase health care costs for residents. He said he would use the income, were his department collecting it, to offset operational expenses.

Slater’s not convinced the township should still be responsible for 60 percent of the department’s operational expenses and would like to review its expenses.

In other township news:

• Resident Mike Martin asked the trustees why they were taking residents’ choices away by establishing a trash district, which would contract a single residential trash hauler for the entire township.

Slater said a trash district would reduce the number of trash trucks on the roads, limit the number of days trash trucks would travel the roads, and reduce residents’ trash bills.

“Competition drives down the prices,” said Martin.

Slater said the bid process – as several haulers vie for the contract – is where the competition lies. “It’s not our intent to take away your choice,” he said.

Trustee Rick Black said some of the intent of the district is to save tax revenues by saving wear and tear on the roads. “The township doesn’t have the money to keep repairing the roads,” he said.

Slater said he wasn’t certain the township could tell residents they couldn’t hire a different hauler, if there were a district.

Lecklider chimed in, saying that according to the Ohio Revised Code, other haulers are excluded from the township.

“Our obligation is to maintain the roads,” said Black.

“I fought (a trash district) for a long time, too,” said Trustee Jesse Ours, “but a trash truck is the hardest thing on the roads.” He said trash haulers do more damage to road surfaces than almost any other vehicle.

Black said the trustees wouldn’t proceed with the trash district unless they can secure better rates for residents than any hauler is currently offering.

Slater said previously the township would begin accepting hauler bids, to be opened May 17. Trustees plan for the district to go into effect July 1.

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