TORONTO - Concerned citizens in the northern edge of Island Creek Township are circulating a petition regarding what they contend is a possible loss of emergency medical services currently provided by the TEMS Joint Ambulance District.
The petitioners are concerned about the termination of an agreement between the township and TEMS that residents say could affect emergency medical services to areas including Wallace Heights and county Roads 42, 46 and 56 that are close to the TEMS headquarters in Toronto. The TEMS District currently is comprised of Toronto, Empire, Stratton and Knox Township.
Currently, TEMS services those areas, but some residents are concerned the termination of a legal agreement between TEMS and the Pleasant Hill Volunteer Fire Department could lead to longer response times to calls made to Jefferson County 911. Bob Bertram, a resident of Wallace Heights, off county Road 46, said residents in the area would rather continue to be serviced by TEMS during emergency medical calls because of the area's proximity to the agency.
"(Wallace Heights) is a big area," said Bertram. "Our concern is there are a lot of elderly residents there. Response time by TEMS is basically within five minutes. We're looking at maybe a response time of 15 minutes with Pleasant Hill. A rollover to the (Ambulance Services Inc. in Steubenville) would take even longer.
"Our biggest concern is the longer response time in case of emergency," Bertram continued, adding responses to the area from agencies other than TEMS could hypothetically take up to 30 minutes.
Bertram said the first step is a petition drive to be presented to township trustees to "determine what is best for our area. I don't know what that (solution) will be. The trustees have been notified what we are doing. Nothing is being done behind their back."
Pleasant Hill fire Chief Dominick Andreozzi said the station recently employed daylight emergency medical technicians to answer daylight calls. However, he also said some of the areas of Island Creek Township currently serviced by TEMS aren't being handled by his department.
"We don't even cover the Wallace Heights area," said Andreozzi. "We cover maybe a quarter of county Road 46. (TEMS) covers county Road 42 as well.
"We did go with a paid daylight crew," continued Andreozzi, adding EMS crews are at the station 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. We were missing a lot of calls. (The station) covers fires as well. I'm not going to comment on something I don't know about."
Clark Crago, chief of operations at TEMS, said he's been approached by Island Creek Township residents about continuing TEMS calls to areas adjacent to Toronto.
"We have answered calls (in areas adjacent to Toronto) because of an agreement between Island Creek and the Pleasant Hill Volunteer Fire Department," said Crago, adding the agreement was first reached in 1995 between the entities and the former Toronto Emergency Medical Services.
Crago said the cancellation of the agreement means TEMS now has no legal agreement to provide services to residents near the Island Creek-Toronto boarder. Crago said he was concerned TEMS would no longer be the responding agency during medical calls, although TEMS still currently is answering 911 calls to the areas in question. Crago also said residents' calls to the areas outside the official TEMS district aren't paying the TEMS' operating levy.
"The agreement was made in 1995 that we would handle Pleasant Hills rollover calls," said Crago, adding the agreement was voided without notifying TEMS officials. "That changed Nov. 16 when all (Pleasant Hills rollover) calls went to Ambulance Services Inc. TEMS currently has no legal agreement with Island Creek.
"No one told us they canceled the agreement," Crago continued. "Jefferson County 911 told us of the change as a courtesy. At this time, we are still responding as a courtesy. A lot of (Island Creek) citizens are concerned about this."
Crago also said it didn't make sense for Pleasant Hill and Ambulance Services Inc. to respond to calls within a few miles of the TEMS headquarters. He also said agency officials met with several concerned citizens on the matter during a meeting at TEMS headquarters Wednesday.
"A citizens' group (from Island Creek) has formed that wants to be under the TEMS umbrella," Crago said, adding Frank Martin, TEMS district board member, previously discussed the issue of TEMS servicing some areas of Island Creek with township trustees.
Ultimately Crago said he'd like to see the northern edges of Island Creek currently serviced by TEMS continue to do so for the welfare of the residents there. He also said legally some of the township areas could be incorporated within the TEMS district.
"Before, an entire township had to be in an (EMS) district," said Crago, adding state law has changed to allow townships to be split among EMS providers. "The Ohio Revised Code says the trustees have to make the change."
Sam Grafton, Island Creek trustee, said trustees weren't yet knowledgeable about all the facts and would like to be more informed on the matter. He also said trustees only have so much say over the issue.
"Part of the issue is beyond the trustees' control. We don't control (the Pleasant Hills Fire Department's) funds," he said, adding he hoped to be invited to a future citizens' meeting and "discuss the issue like adults. We want to work to resolve this for the best of the community."