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CRS wants ambulance substation in South End

August 11, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Community Rescue Service is in negotiations with Halfway ambulance officials because CRS wants to have an ambulance substation in Hagerstown's South End, officials said Tuesday.

CRS officials want to improve the response time to the South End, which from their 511 E. Franklin St. headquarters is now three to four minutes, said Chief Chris Amos.

The response time will be about the same from the new headquarters on Eastern Boulevard when it is expected to open in mid-September, Amos said.

CRS wants to have an ambulance operate out of the South Hagerstown Fire Co. at 409 W. First St., but officials with the Volunteer Fire Company of Halfway, Md., Inc. have concerns about their territory, officials said.

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Halfway Chief Joe Kroboth III said he doesn't think CRS can justify having an ambulance at the fire hall when Halfway can respond to the South End in three to four minutes.

Kroboth said CRS would be better served by having a substation in the West End or in Leitersburg or Mount Aetna where response times can be 10 to 12 minutes.

Amos said CRS has a substation in Maugansville that helps cover the West End, while fire companies in Leitersburg and Mount Aetna have first response vehicles that carry basic life support equipment to emergencies in those areas.

While CRS is not asking for its coverage area to be expanded, Kroboth said once CRS has an ambulance in the South End it could petition the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association to realign coverage borders, eating into Halfway's territory.

The main boundary between the two ambulance services is Wilson Boulevard.

Both CRS and Halfway officials have financial concerns related to their coverage areas, said Ron Horn, CRS president.

CRS cannot afford to lose a large part of its South End coverage area since it has $1.6 million in debt to pay off for its new $1.4 million building and four replacement ambulances, Horn said.

Payroll also is immense since the number of volunteers is down, leaving paid paramedics to respond to about 90 percent of CRS's 70,000 annual calls, CRS officials said.

CRS depends on subscribers, its call load and billable calls to survive since there is no fire tax, Amos said.

Halfway just bought a new $90,000 ambulance so it will have two in service, Kroboth said. The company's funding sources include fund raisers, bingo, billable calls, Washington County funds and Washington County Gaming Commission funds, he said.

It's up to the county association to make a final decision on the matter, Amos said.

According to the county association's bylaws, ambulance companies cannot be within five miles of each other, which would happen if CRS had an ambulance in the South End, Horn said.

Amos said a compromise might include giving up a small portion of CRS's territory to Halfway.

While both sides said they want a reasonable compromise, Amos said if CRS officials aren't satisfied with the association's final decision, they will appeal it to the Washington County Commissioners and, if necessary, to Circuit Court.

Both CRS and Halfway have paid and volunteer staff.

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