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City to lease rescue truck from fire company

April 29, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg city officials agreed Monday to pay $2,500 a month for use of a rescue truck owned by Ryneal Fire Co. until a trial can be held to determine which entity should own a fleet of city ambulances.

In addition to the $2,500, city officials agreed to assume the responsibility for the rescue truck, which includes maintenance.

To insure it does not have an impact on the trial, the usage fee will not be told to jurors in the trial, officials for the two sides said during a hearing before Berkeley County Circuit Court Judge David Sanders Monday morning.

The money will be held in an escrow account until the trial can be held. If Ryneal prevails in the trial, the money will go to that entity. If the city prevails, the money will return to them, officials said Monday.

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Since 1985, Ryneal, a private corporation not affiliated with the city, has billed and collected for ambulance services - which are performed by city-salaried paramedics - and used that money to buy ambulances for the city. Ryneal also paid for equipment, cell phones and training for paramedics and firefighters, according to Ryneal president Mary Helmick.

City Manager Mark Baldwin has said the city should be doing that billing, collecting and equipment purchasing.

City officials have filed a lawsuit against Ryneal, demanding that Ryneal open its financial records and that three ambulances and other equipment currently titled to Ryneal be turned over to the city.

A jury trial, which is scheduled for June 10, is being held to determine who owns the ambulances and to clear up other questions, officials have said.

In addition to the ambulances, city officials believe the rescue truck should be turned over to the city.

The vehicle, purchased by Ryneal in 1999, has various equipment, including vehicle extrication equipment.

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