Rocky Fork Enterprise

City looks to recoup $61K for derecho cleanup

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Gahanna will recoup most of the money it spent related to the June 29 derecho that swept across central Ohio, leaving downed power lines and most of the city without electricity.

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb told Gahanna City Council on Nov. 5 that the city would recover $61,265 of unexpected cleanup personnel expenses related to the storm.

The city's police, service and parks-recreation departments worked additional hours to ensure the safety of residents and clean up debris. Gahanna also opened a cooling center at the senior center to provide residents with a place to escape the heat.

Stinchcomb said the city's claim to Federal Emergency Management Agency totaled just under $71,000, and FEMA allowed slightly more than $70,000 of Gahanna's claims.

"We were able to do this because of the great record keeping by our various responding departments and to a great effort by our emergency-services director, Gen. James Williams and the finance department's deputy director, Joann Bury," Stinchcomb said.

Of the $70,017.84 that FEMA allowed, the city received 75 percent, or $52,513.38, according to city public-information officer Brian Hoyt. The city received another 12.5 percent ($8,752.23) of the allowable amount from the state, for a total reimbursement of $61,265.61.

"Thank you to Gen. Williams and Joann for their work, attention to detail and their dedication to our taxpayers," Stinchcomb said.

She also announced a public open house related to the Hamilton Road corridor plan that's scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at Gahanna City Hall. She said the community is invited to share thoughts and opinions about the type of development that should occur along the North and South Hamilton Road corridor.

In other council discussion, Mifflin Township Fire Chief Tim Taylor said it has been about six years since anyone addressed the city concerning matters of EMS in Gahanna.

"I want to assure you that at Mifflin Township Fire, we try to be a lean form of government in the community," he said. "We try to have a lean economic impact."

Taylor said Mifflin provides EMS at no additional cost to the community. He said the fire division requests reimbursement from insurance companies, though.

"A portion of that is set aside to reimburse EMS agencies," he said. "We do accept payment from insurance companies as payment in full."

For nonresidents, including people who live outside Gahanna and pay no Gahanna taxes, Mifflin will "soft-bill" at 30-, 60- and 90-day intervals, he said.

"If they don't pay, we don't take it to collections," Taylor said. "The city of Columbus is taking people to collections. ... Columbus is the only agency that does hard-bill."

As a result of Mifflin adding an ambulance in June, he said, the dependency on contiguous agencies has been reduced. Previously, one in 10 runs was going to a contiguous agency.

Council member David Samuel said the public hadn't been made aware of the billing structure.

"We've had things come up," Samuel said. "How did EMS billing get approved?"

Taylor said the system was in place when he began working for Mifflin in the early 1990s.

Samuel said Mifflin had a levy approved (in May 2011) and that residents might not understand why they are paying twice (through the levy and EMS billing).

"Taxes pay for staffing," Taylor said. "EMS reimbursement pays for medical supplies and training. We provide EMS service free of charge. We don't provide the transportation for free."

He said Gahanna residents don't receive a bill from Mifflin, but they see an explanation of benefits.

"The only time they get a bill is if a contiguous agency (responds)," Taylor said.

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