Hobart residents tell council: Don’t privatize EMS
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent February 7, 2013 11:33AM
Updated: February 8, 2013 11:46PM
HOBART — Mayor Brian Snedecor said Wednesday he is hiring a consultant to help determine whether the city should retain a private ambulance companyin response to residents who continue to come before the City Council asking that it keep emergency medical services within the Fire Department.
“I want to hire someone who does fire department studies, someone who looks at staffing levels, allocation of resources, the budget, equipment, etc. I want a complete snapshot of what is best strategically,” Snedecor said.
He said he hasn’t hired anyone and stressed that no decision has been made as yet.
“In the meantime, the council is wasting taxpayers’ money for a consultant. We get two for one now (firefighter and EMS),” said Councilwoman Monica Wiley, D-at large.
Wiley is in favor of keeping the service within the department and said she has received a number of letters on the subject.
Several residents have come to the last two City Council meetings to ask that the EMS services remain in the Fire Department, with some citing personal experiences.
The council has said it needs to look at options as a result of the frozen levy, which has strained its budget.
“How do you operate, function, with the frozen levy,” asked Councilman John Brezik, D-5th, after the meeting.
But a number of residents, who have approached the council at meetings or written to council members, don’t feel privatizing the EMS services is the answer.
Resident Dave Mayer on Wednesday recalled how the city hired a private ambulance service in 1979, when it was not prepared to handle the service itself. He said firefighters still had to respond to the same calls.
“We have one of the finest EMS services in the state ... To take away 16 firefighters from the city would be a sin,” Mayer said.
Some have said 16 firefighters would no longer be needed if EMS services were taken away, but the mayor has denied this.
Mayer also called for the re-opening of Fire Station No. 2.
“I know it’s financially tough, but one life is worth it,” he said.
Mayer said he personally has experienced emergency response times ranging from 3 to 30 minutes, depending on whether there’s a train.
Another resident requested the council have a public forum before making any final decision. “There’s a feeling out there that people don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
Snedecor said there will be an opportunity for public input. “I assure you nothing will be hidden in any way,” Snedecor said.