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Rescue service ruling for Smithsburg may come soon

January 30, 2002

Rescue service ruling for Smithsburg may come soon



By SCOTT BUTKI
scottb@herald-mail.com


The Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association decision on whether Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services or Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. will provide regional rescue and extrication services could be made within 45 to 60 days, Association President Jason Baer said.

Smithsburg EMS has put its vehicle up for sale, Ambulance Chief Jason Sturm said Monday. The company is asking $250,000 for the vehicle alone or $300,000 for the vehicle with equipment, he said.

At the suggestion of an independent panel, the Washington County Commissioners decided unanimously Jan. 15 to bar Smithsburg EMS from using its rescue vehicle for emergencies for up to nine months.

The company did not see the point in letting the vehicle depreciate in value during that time, Sturm said.

"We are left with a vehicle collecting dust," Sturm said.

If Smithsburg EMS is selected to do the work, it will not sell the vehicle, he said.

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If Smithsburg EMS sells the vehicle before a decision is made, the work will go to the fire company, said Joe Kroboth, the county's emergency services director.

The nine-month period during which EMS was told not to use the vehicle will serve two purposes, Kroboth said.

First, the break is a way to discipline the company for using the vehicle on rescue calls after the commissioners told them not to do so, he said.

Second, it gave the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. time to decide whether to apply for permission to provide rescue and extrication services.

That process was speeded up when the fire company applied to do the work just days after the commissioners' Jan. 15 decision, Kroboth said

The commissioners have to approve the association's decision, Kroboth said.

The commissioners could elect to cancel the nine-month break for the Smithsburg EMS vehicle at that point, if the company is selected to do the work, he said.

In December 2000, the commissioners barred Smithsburg EMS from operating its rescue squad vehicle, saying it was duplicating service provided by the fire company, which has rescue equipment on one of its fire engines.

After that meeting, the association gave Smithsburg EMS permission to use the vehicle, but only as an ambulance.

After the fire company reported that Smithsburg EMS was responding to both rescue and ambulance calls, the commissioners decided on Oct. 2, to send a letter warning EMS that if it continued to use the vehicle, the county might take action, including seeking a court injunction to prevent further operation of the unit.

In mid-October, the commissioners decided to let the company continue using the rescue squad for 60 days, pending a study by a three-member panel made up of fire and rescue experts who live and work outside the county.

The panel said the Smithsburg vehicle should not be used for ambulance calls because there is inadequate room for effective treatment of patients

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