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Commissioners give $50,000 grant to CRS

January 23, 2002

Commissioners give $50,000 grant to CRS



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to give a $50,000 grant to Community Rescue Service, a move a CRS official said probably would prevent further layoffs this year.

"CRS has gotten itself in a position where it needs immediate help," Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said.

Without the money, CRS would have had to cut at least two more employees within the next few weeks, Executive Director J. Michael Nye said.

At its Jan. 15 meeting, the CRS Board of Directors cut $211,000 from the CRS budget, in part by eliminating one administrative position and laying off five CRS staff members who go on ambulance calls.

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The grant comes with three conditions:

-- CRS must within 45 days submit to the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association and the county Emergency Services Department a three-year business plan explaining how CRS will keep expenses in line with revenues. The plan would be monitored quarterly by association and county department officials.

-- CRS must meet with Washington County Health System officials about an offer to take over CRS' billing and bill collection.

-- Emergency Services Director Joe Kroboth will return in three months with an update on CRS. His report will include a suggestion on whether any changes need to be made to the boundaries of CRS' service area.

In August 2001, the Hagerstown City Council voted to give CRS $50,000 and asked that the county match that amount.

At Dec. 4 and Jan. 8 meetings, CRS asked the commissioners for the additional $50,000. The commissioners said they would consider CRS' request only if the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association endorsed it.

The association last Thursday made that recommendation.

The prior CRS cuts, which will take effect within the next two weeks, could affect ambulance service because CRS probably will have the personnel to staff fewer ambulances than in the past. That increases the odds that all CRS ambulances could be tied up should an emergency occur. In that case, such an emergency would be handled by ambulance companies from farther away.

Kroboth estimated that other ambulance companies would have to respond to about 20 percent to 25 percent of calls for CRS.

He said CRS responds to 35 percent of all fire and rescue calls in the county and its Maugansville substation responds to an additional 5 percent.

Fire and Rescue Association President Jason Baer said the association will determine whether changes are needed to avoid jeopardizing public safety.

CRS is a private, nonprofit ambulance company serving about 35,000 homes and businesses in and around Hagerstown.

CRS faces financial problems because of an increased call load and because many of the people it treats are underinsured or have no insurance, are senior citizens with Medicare, or are poor, Nye has said.

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