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Ambulance and fire company emergency personnel talk merger

Erin Cunningham
Frederick News Post

(11/19/2004) Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Co. officials plan to meet with Vigilant Hose Co. personnel Sunday to discuss the ambulance company's shaky past and uncertain future.

Volunteers said they are just trying to stay alive while commissioners, Vigilant Hose Co. representatives and Emmitsburg residents help decide their fate.

Vigilant officials suggested a merger between the two stations because of recent fail rates as high as 30 percent by the ambulance company. A call is considered failed if personnel are not on their way to the emergency scene within eight minutes.

But because the company's two failed calls occurred when paid personnel were not on duty, some doubted the volunteers' claims.

Frank Rauschenberg, Vigilant president, said paid staff is needed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The fire company's position is that a merger between the two stations is the best solution, saying it "provides the best chance to achieve a 100 percent response goal."

At a public hearing Tuesday, Commissioner Mike Cady said he wanted the companies to find a solution together.

"I don't think there's the slight possibility of a merger," he said.

Chief Sharer said if the companies merge, many of his volunteers may leave, choosing not to move to the fire station.

"There are a lot of members who have said if we move up the street, we aren't going to be welcome there," he said. "Our company has been in business for 50 years, and the last thing we want to see is all of a sudden we become (Vigilant) and lose that heritage."

Both companies indicate they want compromise. They are expected to hash out their differences soon and form a plan of action to take to county commissioners.

Commissioners President John L. Thompson Jr. said the board would "give a great deal of weight to any decision that both companies come to agreement on."

"A merger was talked about years ago," said Rick Sharer, chief of the ambulance company. "It resurfaces every time someone says we aren't doing what we're supposed to be doing."

But Chief Sharer said since county commissioners voted in August to place paid personnel at the station, the situation has improved.

Paid staff have responded to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week from Vigilant volunteers have run backup calls from the ambulance company, and have failed two calls in two months, a 9-percent fail rate.

Ambulance company representatives said volunteers could respond to night and weekend calls while paid personnel respond to daytime calls.

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