Delaware County Emergency Medical Services has been an independent agency since 1978, and some think the time has come for a change in services.

Delaware County Emergency Medical Services has been an independent agency since 1978, and some think the time has come for a change in services.

Delaware County has for a number of years paid the city of Delaware and Liberty Township for each emergency medical squad run made by their fire departments.

That per-run payment currently is about $197, totaling about $500,000 annually to Delaware and $225,000 to Liberty.

Now Genoa Township wants a similar arrangement with the county, a request that was discussed during an April 25 meeting with county officials and city and township EMS agencies.

Commissioner Dennis Stapleton, who called the meeting, said, "I've not seen anything on paper as to why we (make payments to Delaware and Liberty)," and he doesn't know "if that's economically good for the county."

Delaware city spokesman Lee Yoakum said city records suggest the contracts stem from a county half-percent sales-tax increase enacted in 1971 to fund ambulance service. The motive for the contracts apparently was to compensate the municipalities that had emergency personnel, and whose citizens would pay the new tax increase.

City records include a clipping dated Nov. 15, 1971, from an unidentified newspaper that said the tax hike was adopted "to finance a countywide ambulance service."

City records also include a copy of the commissioners' resolution - also dated Nov. 15, 1971 - enacting the tax. The resolution said the tax was "for the purpose of providing additional general revenue" and said nothing about ambulance service.

Stapleton said he didn't see how the half-percent sales tax could be considered a designated EMS tax. "It's not like a designated property tax," said Stapleton, a Genoa resident. "We don't have a designated levy for this service."

Genoa Township Fire Chief Gary Honeycutt proposed the idea of contracting with the county. He said Genoa is in the process of adding more people to its department.

"We are now duplicating services, expenditures and taxes," he said.

Honeycutt said he wants to develop a funding formula that's beneficial to the county and the agency providing the service.

County EMS personnel formerly housed in Genoa Township facilities recently moved to another location in the southern part of the township. The move stemmed from the township's addition of nine firefighters.

Commissioner Tommy Thompson said Genoa residents are paying both township and county fees for safety services.

Honeycutt agreed. He said, "If we contract it, that would reduce the burden on our taxpayers."

Thompson said while Genoa decided to get its own service, the county shouldn't ask other townships to do the same.

BST&G Fire District chief Mark Almendinger said he was worried the townships would be forced into providing their own service. "If the county EMS goes away, and the sales tax is not funding it any more, I've got to go ask my people to pay for it," he said.

"I'm not to the point of saying that," Thompson said.

County administrator Tim Hansley told ThisWeek officials from across the county met a few months ago to discuss the possibility of hiring a consultant to conduct a study of EMS services. Delaware County would pay half of the fee, while the city of Delaware and other interested townships would pay the other half. The fee was estimated to be between $50,000 and $100,000.

A subcommittee is determining the study's scope, which Hansley said would take a couple of months.

Delaware County EMS chief Rob Farmer said the study would explore how contracting with agencies would work. He said the county is confident that a study would find that the countywide system is efficient and effective.

"The county is not interested" in contracting with agencies in the southern part of the county, he said. "We already provide the service in a more efficient means," he said.

Farmer said that if the county were to fund southern agencies that would reduce its ability to provide service to the northern part of the county. The northern fire departments are smaller and depend entirely on the county for EMS services.

Delaware city Fire Chief John Donahue, who supports a study, and said the matter would have to be brought before Delaware City Council. "We would recommend to city council that we join our fellow fire and EMS departments and Delaware County to conduct a study on how to provide the most cost effective and efficient service," he told ThisWeek.

Almendinger told ThisWeek that BST&G is not interested in funding the study. "We have a great working relationship" with the county EMS, Almendinger said, and don't want to fund a study "for something that's not broken."

BST&G became a part-time paid fire department 16 months ago and employs 37 part-time firefighters who have some form of EMS certification. The station is staffed 24 hours a day.