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Schnebly, Wivell not pleased with dual equipment

April 06, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

Washington County Commissioner John L. Schnebly has criticized Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services Inc. for spending about $30,000 on rescue equipment similar to equipment the nearby Smithsburg Fire Company already had.

It makes no sense for two companies within a few blocks of each other to both run rescue squad trucks, Schnebly said Wednesday. Commissioner William J. Wivell agreed.

The Washington County Fire and Rescue Association has ruled that Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services would be violating association rules by duplicating fire company services, association President Jay Grimes said.

Smithsburg EMS Chief Jason Sturm appealed to the County Commissioners, requesting the right for EMS to run a rescue squad.

The County Commissioners heard arguments from both sides during a Tuesday meeting and Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook promised a decision within three weeks.

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In December 1999, Emergency Medical Services purchased $30,000 worth of equipment, including "jaws of life," to upgrade rescue services to the 3,000 households it serves, Strum said Wednesday. The fire company also has "jaws of life," he said.

If one life is saved because EMS owns the equipment, then it was worth the cost, Strum said.

The EMS goes on rescue calls with what it calls a "utility vehicle" rather than a rescue squad vehicle, Strum said.

EMS would like the right to refer to the vehicle as a rescue squad, which would give company personnel recognition for the training they received for the equipment, he said.

If the commissioners tell them they can't run a "rescue squad," the company would continue to offer the services, but continue referring to the vehicle as a utility vehicle, Strum said.

Washington County Commissioner Paul L. Swartz, who met with Strum Wednesday, said it is a duplication of services "to a degree" but that the two companies have different boundaries and the equipment isn't identical.

But Schnebly said that's not the point.

"To me the most telling question was when Commissioner William J. Wivell asked, if we had a combined fire and rescue operation, would we be buying two pieces of this equipment," Schnebly said.

A logical person would say of course not, Schnebly said.

"This seems to be just one of the litany of events which lead me to suspect that we need to really examine how we're operating a multi-million public safety organization," Schnebly said.

Strum disagreed with suggestions by some of the commissioners that he should have consulted the association or the fire company before buying the equipment.

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