Town of Emmitsburg
300A S. Seton Ave Emmitsburg, Maryland

Town Meeting Minutes
Emmitsburg Town Office
August 30th, 2004


Ambulance Company's Request for Support

At the August 23, 2004 public workshop, the Emmitsburg Ambulance Company requested a vote of support for their application to the County Commissioners for 2 paid EMT's. They presented statistics and information which supported the need. Discussion by the Board resulted in a vote to hold a public forum for citizens to voice their opinions. Board and rescue service officials discussion follow:

Definitions: 24 hours 7 days a week coverage is herein referred to as 24/7. 12 hours, 5 days a week is referred to as 12/5. Joe, Emmitsburg Ambulance Company, outlined the situation for the public. He commented that it has been a hard decision, especially since it creates a tax situation. Walbrecker: you wanted a 12/5, what makes a difference between your request for a 12/5 and the need for 24/7. Joe: with loss of the Carroll Valley area, they feel that volunteers could fill in the remainder of the time.

Frank Rauschenberg, President of the Vigilant Hose Company: Vigilant Hose Company is a separate entity from the ambulance company but they certainly give support for their proposal, they are concerned for citizens of Emmitsburg and the surrounding areas who expect a high level of emergency medical service. Diane Walbrecker: how many EMT's and paramedics on the Fire department? Mr. Rauschenberg: not sure of exact number. Mrs. Walbrecker: why does the fire department recommend 24/7 , is it necessary, why not 12/5 like the ambulance company is asking for? Mr. Rauschenberg: documentation shows the problem exists day, night and weekends it is not just twelve hours. Commissioner O'Neil: what is unique about Emmitsburg that would require it to be 24/7 when only Frederick City and Green Valley are the only other 24/7 staffed? Mr. Rauschenberg : there are a number of variables that play into it such as the institutions that are in Emmitsburg and that they also respond to mutual aid companies such as Adams County. Mr. O'Neil: what level does Mount Saint Mary's participate financially? Mr. Rauschenberg reported that MSM is actively supportive.

Chip Jewell, Director of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services for Frederick County: explained how fire/rescue tax became availableľ developed this tax district concept after 1989 to be able to equitably support their own area. Three other areas are currently considering 24/7 coverage. The system came about because of the needs within Frederick County. Service demands and training needs are the greatest for an EMT. Mr. Jewell commented that he knows that this system is painful for all. This problem is current in PA and nationally. Commissioner Elder: are most towns like Emmitsburg where the ambulance company is separate from the fire department? Mr. Jewell: there are four in Frederick County that are separate (Thurmont, Emmitsburg, Walkersville, Brunswick.)

Commissioner O'Neil asked Mr. Jewell besides grants, are the funds raised for the ambulance company used for CIP? Mr. Jewell: there was a general consensus back in the 80's that wanted to maintain a service that is equitable across the county, it was decided that Frederick County would be better off to have a county-wide corporative career system for many reasons. Bill O'Neil: if we go to the taxing district, how does the county disburse out these funds, does the town see all of that come back to it? Mr. Jewell: Funds go into suburban or urban tax district and the needs of the community are addressed through those tax district funds. Personnel needs are then assigned. Money does not go to the company. The county takes care of the needs. Commissioner O'Neil: will ultimately the ambulance company and the fire company merge into one unit or will they be separate entities administered through the county? Mr. Jewell: within the other districts (all three are suburban) the separate entities have remained and, at this point in time, the primary request for career personnel has been to address the emergency medical service needs. Mr. O'Neil: There has been a move to get away from our current facility, acquire land and build a new building for the ambulance company, does this change the plan or does that continue? Mr. Jewell: County would not know, their involvement is strictly in providing the personnel through the county tax. Commissioner O'Neil: thanks for everyone's effort in getting answers to the questions to help understand the issue a lot better. Dianne Walbrecker: she had no part in the letter that came out. Mr. O'Neil: he was concerned that people would not be aware of the special meeting so at his own cost he printed 1000 letters to inform the community and give them a synopsis of what the issues were.

Public Comment:

Loretta Sprankle: member of the ambulance board, been with the ambulance company since 1996. Went to two different conventions, both meetings stressed to work together. We need a chance at the 12/5. Felt that both companies could work together for 12/5. Frank Davis 28 West Main St.: here as a citizen, this problem is not new problem for the community. Within the last 10 years several dedicated leaders from the ambulance company were lost due to untimely death, retirement and people moving from the area. The business belongs to the community. Failure response is unacceptable. Many solutions have been unsuccessful. He also spoke on County Funding. Sabrina Paxton-Daley 12 Zanella Drive: hard decision, glad she doesn't have to make it, however 13.5 cent's tax rate is a lot, concerned for the population in the city who bought their homes years ago and are living on a limited income. Would ask the commission to start with the 6.5 cent's tax rate. She also commented that if she has to pay out $300 more a year she would like to see a budget on how the money is being spent. Commissioner O'Neil asked Dave Haller if there are public records in relation to budget. Dave Haller responded that the town has never been privy to their budget. Catherine Forrence 404 W Main St.: thanks to Commissioner O'Neil for providing information to the citizens that this meeting was taking place tonight and getting citizen input. Betsey Forrence 17247 Annandale Road: concerned that situation has been percolating many years, why is it now an emergency? Concerned when forced into something at the last minute. Resent being "bulldozed" into something that we have to commit a large amount of tax dollars. Has problems with staff of ambulance and fire company for not bringing this to the Board earlier and given everyone a chance to consider it thoughtfully before there is a crisis. Diane Walbrecker: the Town was given an opportunity by the County Commissioners to give their input before a decision is made. Commissioner O'Neil: the County Commissioners can act independently of the Board but the Board's opinion and the opinion of the citizens of Emmitsburg weigh extremely heavy on the County's decision if Emmitsburg should be included in the fire district.

Larry Little: resident and property owner of several properties, brought news article concerning Smithsburg where it took nine minutes for the ambulance to respond and a lady and baby died. Linda Pembroke 4065 Carrick Ct: why is it not more of a standard household bill instead of an assessment bill? Commissioner O'Neil addressed Mayor Hoover or Dave Haller if the Town has a circuit breaker provision, is that possible? Mr. Haller: the rate in general would have to be raised to cover the loss. Ron Seghetti 4115 Carrick Ct: will affect everyone, but is a necessity. Consider a flat fee of what people can afford. There are other funds out there, federal funds given out each year, FEMA is a big organization that gives these funds out. There are ways to get the monies needed. He is a paid firefighter/paramedic said we should look for other funds instead of taxing. Bill O'Neil: this is the system the town has to operate under. We can't do a fee structure we don't have that option. Rose-Marie Frantz 7 Adams Ave: daughter is an EMT, supports the 6.5 increase. Bottom line is life and death. Bill Barth 1322 Huntley Cir: everyone affected, increasing the tax rate will cause a burden on them as family. What has been the tax increase for the last 3 years for the homeowners for this type of situation? What has been the percentage of increase in response calls in the last year? Makes it tough on a one salary household. Bill O'Neil: it is his understanding that MSM contributes around $500, my concern is that we're asking citizens to shoulder the burden - something the Town needs to work on. Kristen McKenna 1328 Huntly Cir.: Thank you for the flyer, proud 30 day resident of Emmitsburg, would have to pay $21 per month at the 6.5 rate, no problem. As a public servant she knows what the public wants. The 13.5 tax rate would be a burden for common citizens. In favor of the 6.5 tax rate. Pat Joy 4035 Carrick Ct.: thanks for explanation of why we're here, against it. What has been done to try to get up the response rate? Slow response is a problem anywhere, even after we hire these people, why should we shoulder an increase in taxes? Jeanette McGuire Emmitsburg Ambulance Company: had to leave, not available to answer questions raised.

Commissioner O'Neil: spoke to a number of people who are concerned, some live in Pembrook Woods and there is a perception that they're well off and a lot of them are not, they are concerned about the level of taxation they will have to pay. The one question that is being asked is what has been done to improve level of response rate? Joe: got new members, considerable time frame to be trained, have to wait for training to be offered by the county, once they do get into class it will take an additional six months, so it could take a least one year until a person could be able to ride on the ambulance, and one year is a long time to wait for the ambulance company to wait to get their stats back up. Commissioner Walbrecker: the problem is there have been efforts to renew the ambulance company and get volunteers and for some reason or another something always falls by the wayside and then they are back where you started again, how do you answer that? Joe: every company in Frederick County has the exact same issues when it comes to volunteers, need to give something a try, you can start it off at the 6.5 and if it doesn't work it can always go up but not backwards.

John Hoyle: 10 day resident of Emmitsburg, in favor of the 24/7. Paula Compton 2 William Ct: fully supports the ambulance company's request for the 6.5 tax. Anthony Brown Brookfield Ct: Was not aware that there was not 24 hours service. If taxes have to be raised fine, but there should be some budget that the common citizen can see what is being done with the money. Commissioner O'Neil: once you ask the public for tax dollars to augment a service, then he feels the public has a right to know everything that is involving all of the services. Mr. Jewell: with respect to the state grant the 508 money is audited annually by the association and County. He stated that he agrees there should be Federal money out there, unfortunately, for personnel it is not available. Leo Boyle: appreciated the flyer notifying him of the meeting, believes it is time now to go 24/7. Mr. Rauschenberg VHC : the institutions in this community have been very supportive of the fire department. Chief Rosensteel: not in favor of new taxes but there is a public safety emergency, 3 calls this morning, no response, we have a serious problem.

Commissioner O'Neil: feels this is a critical issue, at some point approximately 361 homes will be built. I look at that, it's critical now without those numbers, worried about the person on a fixed income, putting an excess burden on them. How is it fair for someone to pay more for the same service just because of where they live in the district. Fee concept is a good one but there is a system in place. From his perspective given that Frederick City is the only one with 13.5 he is definitely inclined to support it. Commissioner Walbrecker to Mr. Murray head of Frederick County Fire and Rescue: does he have anything to add to discussion? Mr. Murray: any county money can be looked at, it's public record. The Board of County Commissioners is interested in hearing recommendations from the governing bodies of the Town of Emmitsburg, Fire Company and the Ambulance Company in writing. County has put in for fire grant money, has been unsuccessful but they can't get any money for funding personnel. Many other communities have same problems. He explained the budget process in the County government . Mr O'Neil stated again that there needs to be a complete accounting when you have access to public funds that includes when you receive donations, bingo money and anything else, because that impacts the level of future tax increases. Commissioner Walbrecker: can donated money be used for personnel? Mr. Murray : only deals with public money, can't answer that question, that's corporate money. Mr. Rosensteel: if you look at the system as it is right now there are no career people in place, so they are raising their own money. That money goes for upgrading the building, equipment, etc. and that will continue, but when you're talking about the tax money, the tax dollars generated, that will pay the salaries for people to come in and staff the ambulance.

Larry Little: there is relief for senior citizens at the county level. David Weigle 1000 Brookfield Dr: supports the 6.5 rate, heightened level of accountability is essential, but not to discourage volunteers that are doing all the extra stuff.

Motion: To support the Fire Ambulance Emergency services and assistance and taxing district at the 6.5 level. The motion was made by Commissioner Elder and seconded by Commissioner O'Neil. Vote: 2-2 motion failed.

Motion: To support the Fire Ambulance Emergency services and assistance and taxing district at the 13.5 level. The motion was made by Commissioner Walbrecker. No second to the motion. Motion failed.

Motion: To support the Fire Ambulance Emergency services and assistance and taxing district at whatever decision the Frederick County Fire and Rescue people decide is appropriate for them. Motion was made by Commissioner Rosensteel. No second to the motion. Motion failed.

Commissioner O'Neil stated he doesn't want to see the Board abrogate its authority to the County Commissioners.

Motion: To approve the 6.5 increase for the Fire Ambulance Emergency Service's Assistance and taxing district and re-visit the issue in the period of a year pending a crisis and if, at that time, find that the rates have not improved sufficiently, the Board can consider a further increase. Diane Walbrecker second the motion. VOTE: 4-0 in favor of the motion.

Mayor's Comment: only concern is that last week Council was given information about staffing at which time the EMT level was 3 active members, Jeanette McGuire has taken another position and will only be an occasional member. Don't see how only 2 EMTs can make the evening and weekend runs continuous Mr. O'Neil: his understanding since he spoke with the County Commissioners is that right now we have nothing in respect to a fire and emergency district, if the Town is a least participating at the 6.5 rate there will be a willingness on part of the County to look towards the Town's needs. Mayor Hoover: agrees that 6.5 is better then nothing but at the same time, need to face reality, 2 EMT's can not make these calls. Dianne Walbrecker: she was shocked to hear that there were 3 failed calls this morning. Commissioner O'Neil: he was looking at it in another perspective. He believes the 6.5 tax rate will be sufficient stating that more homes will be built which will add further to the tax base. Mr. Jewell reported that there is still a process that this needs to go through before it becomes effective.