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City plans to donate $20,000 to Community Rescue Service

March 06, 2001

City plans to donate $20,000 to Community Rescue Service



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

Community Rescue Service is expected to get $20,000 from the City of Hagerstown - less than the $400,000 CRS has asked for, but "it's a start," said CRS interim Director J. Michael Nye.

It would be the first city cash donation to CRS, but not the first time the city has helped the ambulance company. About five years ago the city gave CRS the land on Eastern Boulevard for the CRS headquarters. Nye said the land was worth $200,000 to $300,000.

The City Council agreed Tuesday to give CRS $20,000 and to ask the Washington County Commissioners to match that donation.

The city's grant to CRS is expected to be formally voted on next Tuesday.

The council also instructed City Finance Director Al Martin to look into other ways the city may be able to help CRS, such as refinancing CRS loans to eliminate interest charges, and waiving city utility bills.

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CRS, a private, nonprofit ambulance company serving about 34,000 homes in Hagerstown and parts of the surrounding area had asked the city for $400,000 a year. That amount includes $200,000 to cover annual operating expenses plus $200,000 for a fund to pay for new ambulances and other equipment. Nye said the $200,000 for operating expenses is what's really needed now.

City Council members discussed the CRS situation with Nye and Martin during Tuesday's council meeting.

Martin told the council that CRS' financial troubles are caused by expenses growing at a faster pace than revenues.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner, a former CRS board member, said that while there was mismanagement at CRS in the past, the current management and board of directors have been doing a good job.

"This board is the board that finally managed," Metzner said.

Metzner called for setting aside in the upcoming budget $100,000 for CRS, which he said should be funded with a tax increase.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said he was considering backing a $50,000 city contribution to CRS. He said the ambulance service is really a "county problem," a statement with which other council members agreed.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said before the city gives CRS more money the ambulance company should revise its billing procedures, put a council member on its board of directors - which the CRS has offered - have Nye resign, and he said a larger contribution should be funded through a tax increase.

Councilman William M. Breichner said a $100,000 donation to CRS will be the subject of subsequent budget discussions. Breichner suggested the city give CRS $20,000, which was Martin's recommendation, and later agreed to by the rest of the council.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said a $20,000 donation is "not anything more than a Band-Aid."

Saum-Wicklein suggested looking for ways to help reduce CRS' loan payments.

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