Belpre Council hears proposal to keep 4 EMTs/firefighters

BELPRE – A possible solution to the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department’s monetary issues with the ability to keep the four emergency medical technicians (EMT)/firefighters was announced during the city council meeting on Monday.

“Our suggestion (is) for council to drop our contract with MCA and have the fire department contract with them for billing,” said Mayor Mike Lorentz. “This means the city will not have the burden of added employees but will still be able to continue the professional services our residents are used to.”

In May 2009, council passed the final readings of legislation to allow the city to contract with Medical Claims Assistance, a company that provides third-party ambulance billing, to bill people taken to area hospitals by Belpre Volunteer Fire Department squads.

For the past four years the department has received 20 percent of those collected funds while the city receives 80 percent. The plan suggested by Lorentz and Safety-Service Director Dave Ferguson will reverse this division of funds.

“Instead of an 80 percent city and 20 percent fire department, it will reverse to cover the EMTs and medical supplies at the firehouse as well as equipment needed to operate safely,” Lorentz said. “The 20 percent the city will receive will cover the new squad loan and assist us with maintaining our property investments.”

This suggestion comes after Eric Sinnett II, president of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department, announced the department would no longer have EMT services on weekdays beginning Nov. 1.

During the July 8 council meeting, Sinnett told council the department will soon have to drop its four EMT/firefighters because there soon will no longer be funds available to pay them.

The department has employed at least two EMT/firefighters for more than 15 years at no cost to the city or residents, but the closure of the department’s daily instant ticket fundraiser in May 2012 has caused a financial strain.

Representatives from the fire department did not attend and their response to the suggested plan is not known.

Councilman Eric Sinnett, longtime firefighter and father of Eric Sinnett II, said the department made more than 800 squad runs in 2012 and has made more than 700 runs this year.

The pay for those four EMTs is 75 percent of the fire department’s annual budget.

In other business

  • Council’s planning and zoning committee started discussions regarding changes to the city’s abandoned vehicles legislation.

“We hope to make changes to the ordinance so people can’t have inoperable vehicles taking up parking space on city streets or making property in the city look bad,” said committee chair Debbie Marshall.

Making the city ordinance more enforceable is expected to involve a change in the legislation’s language, including not allowing any inoperable vehicles per household.

“The current ordinance allows for one abandoned vehicle per property and I can’t understand that,” said Councilman Larry Martin. “That makes no sense.”

Belpre Police Chief Ernie Clevenger said the more specific the language in the ordinance, the more problems he and his officers might have to work with.

“I don’t think there will be an issue if (council) chooses to have zero tolerance for abandoned, junk cars,” Clevenger said.

Marshall said the ordinance will include a section regarding the notification of vehicle owners on the city’s action.

Discussions on the issue will continue at a future committee meeting.