Amid a swirl of controversy
over high failure rates and an inability to pull its own
weight, the Emmitsburg Ambulance Co. is losing its two top
President Lowman Keeney has
been voted out of office, while Ann Marie Messner, the
company's chief for four years, has submitted her resignation.
The two departures were confirmed Tuesday by Frederick County
Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (FCVFRA) President
Messner's resignation will be
effective Sept. 23, while no date was available on when Keeney
had been forced out.
"I have resigned my
position as chief due to personal challenges," Messner
said Wednesday, "not the least of which is being six
months pregnant with my fifth child. I will be taking some
much-needed time off to care for my family."
She said that she would
retain her life membership in the company and has pledged her
"full cooperation" with the company and the county
regarding current issues.
Keeney could not be reached
The personnel shake-up comes
as the all-volunteer ambulance company, the last of its kind
in the county, is the subject of public scrutiny for missed
and late responses to calls.
Over the past three years,
neighboring fire and ambulance companies have complained to
the FCVFRA, claiming Emmitsburg Ambulance is understaffed and
As the result of an FCVFRA
committee's request in 1998, Emmitsburg's fire company, The
Vigilant Hose Co., ran a county-owned ambulance from its
station for nine months to ensure a response to all ambulance
In February 2000, Tim Clarke,
the president of Vigilant Hose, wrote a letter to the FCVFRA
citing "grave concern" for Emmitsburg Ambulance's
rate of failed and late responses.
The issue surfaced again this
year when Emmitsburg Ambulance failed to respond to seven of
eight consecutive calls in a 33-hour period from July 20-21.
This time, Terry Shook,
president of Thurmont Community Ambulance Service, joined in
the criticism, complaining to the association about the
"soaring failure rate" of the Emmitsburg Ambulance.
He said that his Thurmont company had covered for Emmitsburg
in 10 of 11 calls during the July 20-21 period.
Shook requested that county
funds be withheld from Emmitsburg Ambulance and be disbursed
accordingly to other local companies that had responded for
them. He also asked for a committee to evaluate the company's
Emergency services workers
then crowded an Emmitsburg town meeting Aug. 6 to inform town
officers of the controversy and air their grievances.
Messner said Wednesday that
she felt the "response challenges" were confined to
the 33-hour period in July and were caused by communication
errors that have been addressed.
After an Aug. 9 meeting of
the Executive Board of the FCVFRA, Vigilant Hose, Thurmont
Community Ambulance and Emmitsburg Ambulance, the FCVFRA
decided to form an independent committee to look at the status
of Emmitsburg Ambulance and make recommendations for its
These recommendations may
include the hiring of paid EMS personnel at either Vigilant
Hose or Emmitsburg Ambulance.
"We are not going to
discriminate against the ambulance company," association
president Lachman said. "What we are doing is
investigating the emergency services in the Emmitsburg
Messner expressed her
confidence in the committee assigned to investigate the
complaints. "I feel that Mr. Lachman has taken every
conceivable step to insure the appointed members are
knowledgeable as well as unbiased." essner suggested that
her company was not unique in its problems.
"As the challenges being
publicly faced by [Emmitsburg Ambulance] are not confined to
Emmitsburg, and are in some parts of Frederick County
considerably and consistently worse," she said, "my
only request of Mr. Lachman, the FCVFRA and the special
committee is to retain the services of that committee after
the completion of the investigation of Emmitsburg. By doing
so, the committee can continue to investigate response
standards, although on a county, rather than station, level,
insuring adequate service and equal compliance with current
county ordinances already in place."
The issue of hiring paid
emergency personnel has arisen with the changing character of
Frederick County. Many county rescue companies, previously
staffed by volunteers, have been faced with hiring paid
emergency personnel, as communities become increasingly the
denizens of commuters with fewer local ties.
Clarke scoffed at the
suggestion that paid personnel be hired for Vigilant Hose. He
said Tuesday that his company has a zero-percent failure rate
and that he does not see any need for paid personnel there.
"I'm not saying that
down the road we may not, because we're all-volunteer, but at
this point we're in a very strong position," Clarke said.
"We're fortunate that we have a good group of volunteers
that enable us to provide emergency services - specifically
fire and rescue services - to the Emmitsburg community without
failure at this point."
Lachman said the five-member
committee comprises two members from outside Frederick County,
one Frederick member and an Emmitsburg citizen. It is chaired
by Dale McGuire, president of the Lewistown Volunteer Fire Co.
and 2nd vice president of the FCVFRA.
The committee will provide
its report to him in mid-November, Lachman said.
In the interim, two members
of Emmitsburg Ambulance will assume the posts vacated by
Messner and Keeney, Lachman said. Steve King will become the
company's chief and Joseph Pelkey has taken over as president.