Berkeley residents gather on ambulance question

August 17, 2000

Berkeley residents gather on ambulance question

By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARLOWE, W.Va. - About 80 north Berkeley County residents gathered Thursday evening to discuss the future of ambulance service in the area.

"I join those who are mystified as to why we are assembled here," said local resident Hal Dunham, who spoke at the Marlowe Ruritan building.

The area now is served by the Bedington (W.Va.) Volunteer Fire Department as well as by the Williamsport Ambulance Service of Maryland through a mutual aid agreement.

The Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority has purchased property for a fire station along W.Va. 11 in the area. It would be staffed by paid personnel.


A key question, according to comments at the meeting, is whether the paid staff should be stationed at the volunteer facilities that already exist in the area, and also be placed in other volunteer fire facilities throughout the county.

"The disagreement is over how to provide the services best," said Ken Hite, a member of the 11-member Ambulance Authority board.

"There's not a battle between the (ambulance authority) and the volunteers over putting a station here," said Laura Rose, attorney for the county's five volunteer fire companies. The Bedington Volunteer Fire Department has circulated a proposal to locate paid staff in the volunteer stations.

Considerable discussion Thursday centered on whether Williamsport would continue to serve the area, as it has for 51 years. By a show of hands, those in attendance seemed virtually unanimous in support of Williamsport continuing to help serve the area.

Members of the Ambulance Authority board who attended the meeting, and County Commissioner Robert Burkhart, all said no one would disrupt the mutual aid agreement under which Williamsport provides service.

Several residents said they just want to get the best and quickest response possible.

"We'd like to get this issue resolved because it's so close to our heart," said area resident Dana Phelps.

Rose said the goal is to find the right ways to improve service.

"We're not getting enough sick people to the hospital quickly enough," she said. Two other meetings are scheduled to discuss the issue of how best to provide ambulance service in the county.

One will be held Tuesday, Aug. 22, at Musselman High School at 7 p.m. and another will be held at the regular monthly meeting of the Ambulance Authority Thursday, Aug. 24, at 7 p.m.

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