Ambulance service within the city dominated the Dec. 10 Chillicothe City Council meeting, which was the last one of the year.
Longtime Rescue 33 member and current treasurer Janet Sharp said she sought answers directly from city officials.
Most of what she asked she said were her own questions, and she was not speaking on Rescue 33’s behalf.
She did begin with Rescue 33, however. “We’re in negotiations. We were asked not to comment about it, not to say anything about this but to say that all we’re saying is we’re in negotiations, hopefully to get our license back.”
She first asked the mayor to explain his quote in the Nov. 14 edition of the Chillicothe Times-Bulletin: “I think that if Rescue 33 is now successful and has plenty of money to operate, then they need to support some kind of ambulance service until they come back.”
“I don’t know what you meant by that — are you talking financial or?” Sharp stopped.
“Well, actually, what’s happening right now is that the ambulance service that’s in town is a volunteer thing that they’re doing for the city of Chillicothe and they’re operating at a deficit at the present time because they don’t have that many calls,” answered Childers.
“... I support Rescue 33 to the fullest, but I also support 6,000 people that if, in fact, the ambulance service that we have now comes up and has to have some money to stay here or move out and go to Mossville, which is probably the case if it happened. If Rescue 33 is getting donations and if they’ve got money, which they stated in the paper that they do have money, maybe they can help offset part of the cost until they get back in business because that’s what they’re here for is to have a Rescue 33 service. That was my statement.”
Sharp responded to his idea.
“For 47 years, the city hasn’t had to pay a cent for ambulance service. And, we do have a building, we have three stocked ambulances, we have everything in that building, but it’s not Rescue 33’s. Everything we have has been donated via memorials, donations or fundraisers from the people, not Chillicothe only, all the area that we serve. So, you’re asking us to take the money that those people have already donated to help with an ambulance service that’s going to charge them a second time for that service. I don’t see how that’s serving the people of Chillicothe any better.”
He said that monetary assistance either through an ambulance tax referendum like what was held in November or funds that Rescue 33 has could help offset bills residents are now receiving for services AMT provides.
“We have 6,000 people that doesn’t know from one day to the next who the ambulance service is going to be,” said Childers.
Sharp responded, “We don’t know from one day to the next, either. We would like to have this done and over with, but we have to go by (the EMS System’s) schedule.”
The mayor said the people still need the protection of the service, and Sharp said she agreed.
She also said almost 60 percent of the ambulance calls were made outside city limits.
“That’s why Rescue 33 said it’s not fair to just tax the city. If we’re going to tax, which I don’t know if we are, we need to do the whole area that we serve — the fire area that the fire department serves. That’s something we’re working on,” said Sharp.
He responded by saying city officials met with township officials on possible ideas to incorporate everyone.
They also discussed the city referendum.
Sharp mentioned that a lot of people had questions about the possible tax when they attended a Tea Party sponsored meeting at the VFW hall.
“I think that if the city would have said, ‘Let’s have a meeting and talk about it and get some of these questions answered from the public,’ I think that would have made a big difference,” said Sharp.
The mayor said that according to the early voting numbers, the referendum would have passed. It failed by 42 votes. “But whenever Rescue 33 came out in the paper and said they didn’t need any help from the city of Chillicothe and they didn’t need the money, it failed.”
Sharp asked if he thought residents voted against it because they did not want their taxes raised, which he answered, “probably.”
Sharp also asked about the involvement of Andrew Rand, director of AMT, in the referendum.
City attorney Mike Seghetti said he sent information to both Rescue 33 and AMT about a statement for the public on the referendum. Rand made a couple comments, and Seghetti reflected them in updating the statement.
She also asked about Childers and Seghetti meeting with Rand about mid-September, in which Rand told them he was interested in a partnership with Rescue 33 and to convey that to the squad. She asked if they did tell Rescue 33 about the idea. Seghetti said they did contact Rescue 33 and were told that the squad was focusing on its appeal at that time. The person they contacted, Sharp said, is not a member of Rescue 33. Rand eventually met with Rescue 33 itself on Nov. 13.
Sharp said she did not understand why Rescue 33, the city, fire department, etc., cannot “work together.”
The mayor reiterated no communication from Rescue 33, leaving the city in “limbo.”
Seghetti repeated the city’s position of supporting Rescue 33 “to the extent that we can.”
“If there’s something that we can do to support Rescue 33, let us know. We’ll be happy to consider it,” said Seghetti.
She also asked Chillicothe Fire Chief John Myers and Chillicothe Police Chief Scott Mettille questions.
She mentioned residents stopping her around town and asking if because they needed Rescue 33 often, if they were the ones taking advantage of the ambulance squad, and why Rescue 33 would not show the city its finances.
Sharp said she was not aware of city officials asking to see the books. The mayor then asked if he could see the books, and they set a date later that week.
As it turned out, they did not meet, Childers said late last week.
“I elected not to go through the books in case there is a he said, she said. I don’t want to be privy to anything I shouldn’t be.”
Sharp’s husband, Gary, who is an alderman, also made a brief statement at the council meeting.
“I think it’s important that we all in this room, everybody in the city of Chillicothe realize, that Rescue 33 is not owned by any company. Rescue 33 is owned by the people of Chillicothe. The money that sits in their coffers came from the people. The building that they own was bought by the people. So we’ve got to do right by the people and we’ve got to be truthful to the people,” said Gary Sharp.
Heard at the Chillicothe City Council meeting:
In other items, the council:
• Approved an ordinance for tax levy and assessment of taxes for the city’s fiscal year, which begins May 1, 2013, and ends April 30, 2014. The city is levying $522,636 and held a Truth-In-Taxation hearing before the meeting because the council is seeking for a 6.5 percent increase over last year’s tax levy.
• Approved an ordinance to sell a 2005 Chevrolet Impala used as a police vehicle to Michael Phelps for $1,255.
• Approved hiring Zoyla Nunez as a part-time dispatcher, subject to pre-employment testing.
• Approved the police department priority one and two projects: a camera upgrade of $9,664 to Watch Guard for two cameras with accessories.
• Approved the cemetery and parks priority one project of a John Deer Z915B Commercial Ztrak mower for $6,950, less $2,500 for the trade-in of a 2004 Grasshopper 727K mower. In all, the city will pay Rupiper Equipment $4,450.
• Approved an ordinance selling a 1982 Elgin/Pelican street sweeper to Jason Dalrymple for $514.
• Approved paying Midwest Meter $4,000 for a Bader meter ranger handheld complete with Orion radio receiver. The device allows the meter reader to read water usage from a vehicle and will be used as a backup.
• Approved hiring Josh Ely as a full-time public works employee, effective Dec. 19. After Jim Long’s death, Alderman Denny Gould said the department has been operating shorthanded. Ely has been doing a good job as a part-time employee, Gould said, so he was approved for the full-time position.
• Directed City Attorney Mike Seghetti to draft an amendment to the zoning section for the Central Business District.
• Heard the mayor say a school district official asked the city to consider monetary relief for watering the football field like what the city did for the park district with Santa Fe Park. Some city officials said they thought there already was a discount in place. The issue was referred to the public works committee.