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City Council faces an easy decision

Members of Steubenville City Council will face an easy decision when they meet Tuesday.

They’ll be asked to consider emergency legislation that will allow Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi to hire three additional firefighters to help staff the city’s ambulance service.

It’s a request they should say yes to.

Added personnel will help the city put a second ambulance into operation while reducing some of the strain the department has been under since launching its EMT service in October.

The need is certainly there. Capaldi told councilmembers at last Tuesday’s meeting the city has been averaging between nine and 10 ambulance calls a day. That has led to revenue of $46,000 — a number that is likely to grow as those payments can lag as much as six months behind. Original projections had anticipated bringing $715,000 in EMS revenue into city coffers, money that would cover the cost six people to staff ambulances.

While adding the EMS-certified firefighters to the department will be an expense to the city, the increased personnel will lead to lower overtime costs overall and will enable the city to answer more calls, which will help increase revenue. The three additional firefighters will give the city some breathing room to operate the EMS service until it can apply for funding until the next round of the federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant program opens up.

Steubenville’s 2019 S.A.F.E.R. application for a grant was denied, but, as Capaldi pointed out, there were no city funds used to purchase and equip the city’s two ambulances and keep a third in reserve. That money came from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Capaldi, his department and City Council deserve to be commended for being able to put together their EMS service as quickly as they have. That action came about after councilmembers learned about a year ago that its longtime provider, the privately run Ambulance Service Inc., had shifted its business model and could no longer respond to the volume of calls received in the city. That forced Steubenville to rely on mutual aid agreements, a system that put a strain on services offered by neighboring communities.

The number of those calls has fallen, but first responders from outside departments still are answering three or four calls a day inside the city. While the addition of a second ambulance would further reduce that number, it likely would not completely eliminate the need for assistance from neighboring areas.

Council appeared to be receptive to the request, with 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna and 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul agreeing it’s a move that’s needed to allow the service to continue to be successful.

It is a decision, as Paul described, “a no-brainer,” and one that will help to ensure the safety of Steubenville residents.

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