Liberty Township might be compelled to turn to Delaware County for emergency medical services if its fire levy fails in November, but exactly what that coverage would look like isn't yet clear.

Liberty Township might be compelled to turn to Delaware County for emergency medical services if its fire levy fails in November, but exactly what that coverage would look like isn't yet clear.

The township's unified fire-based EMS service likely would be split down the middle if a five-year, 6.6-mill property tax levy is voted down Nov. 6, officials said.

Currently, all township firefighters also are certified paramedics.

If the levy fails, the township will lose its sole revenue stream to fund emergency services for more than a year, and it likely couldn't afford to sustain its current fire-based EMS staff, officials said.

While some level of fire services potentially could be filled in several different ways, the township likely would turn to a single source for medical services if the levy failed: Delaware County EMS.

A half-percent sales tax in the township already helps to fund Delaware County EMS, which serves the whole county, so the switch wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime.

County EMS Chief Rob Farmer said his staff would indeed serve the township if it could not provide for itself.

"We're in the emergency services business, so we would adjust our system to do what it takes to respond to the needs of the township," Farmer said.

Exactly what the new model would look like is far from settled. Farmer wouldn't speculate because he hasn't yet met with township officials to establish a plan.

But he said it "almost for sure would be a different level of service."

"We would provide a professional level of service based on the needs of that community, but it's based on a different model," he said. "The answer is that it would be hard to do exactly what they do, and things would change."

Township emergency officials said relying on the county could increase response times in emergency situations.

Delaware County EMS has 10 stations, though none are located within the township's borders. But it also has mutual-aid agreements with neighboring communities, which could serve Liberty Township residents in case of emergency. And for some residents in the northernmost parts of the township, a county EMS ambulance might be dispatched from a location nearer than either of the township's stations.

Trustee Melanie Leneghan, who said she would embrace county EMS as a cheaper alternative to the status quo, points out county EMS staff potentially could move into one of the township's fire stations.

Delaware County Administrator Tim Hansley said such a move is possible, but wouldn't comment on its likelihood at this point.

"It could happen, but to say it would happen would be pure speculation," he said.

Liberty Township Medical Director Warren Yamarick said he believes relying on the county would put residents in jeopardy, especially during the transition period.

He said it could take months to implement a new system and work out the kinks, and potentially years to replicate the current quality of service.

"The expertise and the quality of our firemen and medics is not something that you just create overnight. You have to build to that level," he said. "The county cannot just provide the same response times and quality of service the day we shut our doors."

He said the township's integrated system provides extra benefits because firefighter-paramedics are versatile and can respond to a variety of situations.

Township Fire Chief Tim Jensen is another strong advocate of fire-based EMS.

Yamarick condemned Leneghan for promoting changes to the department without professional fire or EMS expertise.

But Leneghan insists township residents would be taken care of under her plan, and at considerably less expense to the taxpayers.

The bulk of the fire department's $6 million budget is spent on medical services.

"Delaware County EMS is more than happy to provide EMS to the township, with an excellent level of service, and that's all that matters," Leneghan said. "They would not treat Liberty Township any different than they do the rest of the county."

The proposed levy would replace a levy currently being collected at 4.64 mills, which expires this year. If approved Nov. 6, it would generate $8.46 million per year and cost homeowners $202.43 annually for each $100,000 in home value. The current levy costs residents $143.17 yearly per $100,000 in home value.