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Speech scorns lack of subsidy

November 24, 2000

Speech scorns lack of subsidy



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Community Rescue Service's interim director may have hurt his chances for a subsidy from the City of Hagerstown with a presentation Wednesday that City Councilman J. Wallace McClure said made the council look like "a bunch of jerks."

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Speaking before about 130 people at a noon meeting of the Rotary Club of Hagerstown and a Hagerstown Kiwanis Club, CRS Vice President and interim-Director J. Michael Nye predicted a "collapse" of area ambulance service unless the city starts subsidizing CRS.

A combination of an increasing number of ambulance calls from city residents who do not pay for ambulance service, a lack of volunteers and other factors has pushed costs above revenues for CRS, Nye said.

As part of his presentation, Nye said the city provides no assistance to CRS, while smaller towns in the county provide funding for their ambulance companies.

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Nye said it is "unethical" and "irresponsible" for the city to ignore CRS' request.

CRS is the primary provider of ambulance service for the city. Nye has asked the City Council for $200,000 to $600,000 for last year and $400,000 for the current fiscal year - to offset CRS operating deficits and replenish its equipment replacement fund. Nye said CRS would want a $400,000 annual city subsidy in future years.

After a presentation to the City Council in July, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he would support a city subsidy for CRS even if it meant raising taxes. But no funding decision was made at that time.

McClure said he was "leaning" towards supporting a city contribution to CRS. But after Wednesday he wants to look "real closely" at what the city's other options are, including a proposal from city firefighters to have a city-run ambulance service. McClure did not know how much that might cost.

"The way it was presented was to make us look like a bunch of jerks," McClure said.

"He painted the picture that we are ignoring him," he said. "I'm going to make sure the rest of the council members know what a beating we got at the Rotary meeting. ... He changed his tone because the city didn't start writing him checks."

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, who also attended the Wednesday presentation, said Nye made the city out to be a "villain."

Boyer said he is "considering" supporting a city subsidy for CRS.

In response to McClure's statements, Nye said, "It is unfortunate that he may have taken personally what we had to say. ... Admittedly my tone was a little contrite, but we've tried everything else. Our intent was not to embarrass. It was to encourage them to do the right thing."

Nye said without CRS, the city would have to provide its own ambulance service, which he said would cost $3 million to $4 million a year.

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