Liberty Township trustees have yet to reach a decision on the future of the township’s emergency medical services or its medical director, but took steps Jan. 7 toward replacing both.
Township trustees have discussed a proposal from Delaware County that would replace the township's cross-trained fire and EMS services with their own exclusively EMS-trained crews. The change reportedly would save the township an uncertain amount on reimbursements to the township and other fees paid.
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn has been outspoken in her opposition to the change, while trustees Melanie Leneghan and Mike Gemperline have voted to continue exploring options and have blocked Eichhorn’s attempts to stop that exploration, slow the process or create a task force to investigate the township’s options.
The proposed change has been met with ire from residents, who have packed four consecutive board meetings to express their concerns that the change would result in lower service levels.
Those concerns have been echoed by longtime township medical director Warren Yamarick, who has consistently told trustees that the change would be detrimental to the township.
“This is not about me and my job,” he told the crowd at a Dec. 17 meeting. “This is about those firemen who I’ve been dedicated to for 28 years and for you guys.”
At that meeting, trustees declined to renew Yamarick’s expiring contract, choosing instead to extend it for 30 days through the end of January. Eichhorn said Leneghan and Gemperline refused to bring Yamarick back while discussing his contract in executive session.
At the Jan. 7 meeting, Yamarick, a township resident, attempted to speak, but was blocked by Leneghan, who cited “litigation” as the reason for not allowing Yamarick to approach the podium during public comment.
When Yamarick attempted to speak anyway, Leneghan instructed a police officer to remove him from the meeting room. Yamarick was the second vocal opponent of the EMS changes to be escorted out during the meeting.
With Eichhorn absent from the meeting, Leneghan and Gemperline appointed Leneghan as the township’s liaison to the fire department and authorized her to begin negotiations with a new medical director.
No public comment was held until after all agenda items were discussed. Many in the crowd expressed anger that they could not speak in favor of Yamarick.
“With staffing, it’s not something we usually have public input on,” Leneghan told them.
After the meeting, a string of angry residents approached Leneghan to share their thoughts.
“You don’t listen to your constituents,” Sue Braden told her.
“I’ve listened to everything,” Leneghan replied.
The trustees will next meet Jan. 22, their final meeting of January. Yamarick’s contract extension runs through the end of the month, and trustees have said township EMS cannot function without a medical director.