Council Deliberates Ambulance Service
SISTERSVILLE — City Council deliberated Monday about its contract with the city’s volunteer fire department as it relates to an emerging ambulance service.
Council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall to discuss possible revisions to the contract that affect the ambulance service. A more in-depth story about the outcome of this special meeting and Monday’s council meeting will appear in the next edition.
Though Mayor Bill Rice, council and the fire department pledged to work together to resolve their differences, tensions flared during Monday’s meeting.
“We don’t care that you got an ambulance, it’s just the way you did it,” said Councilwoman Bonnie Hizer. “It was a secret to everyone on council until it was here.”
Rice added he “never felt so disrespected” before he accused Deena Glover and Sistersville Fire Chief Jason Wayne, both of whom spearheaded the creation of a new ambulance service of “going behind his back” instead of approaching City Hall.
Glover said, “I saw this area need a back-up ambulance. We just want to provide more service.”
Rice said state and city funds provided the necessary means to maintain the fire department. He said for an independent ambulance service to come in, base itself out of the fire department and utilize those resources is not right. He compared it to a teen who applies all his money to improving a truck, but none to the family’s bills.
“It’s kind of like if you were living at home and you had a real nice pick-up truck, and you spent every bit of your money on headers, tires, rims, lift kits and everything else, while mom and dad are paying for your gas, electric, your fuel and and everything else, but then you come to mom and dad and say, ‘You don’t tell me what to do,'” Rice said. “Not that we want to tell you what to do, but 3-years, 5-years, it’s 20-years since I signed this agreement (with SVFD).”
Rice said then called out plans he’s heard about where firefighters are going to strip down the fire trucks of the gear and return them to City Hall in retaliation.
“If you can sit there and think in your heart and sleep at night knowing that you’re going to take and strip three fire trucks, park them up at that city building shame on you,” he said.
Chief Wayne said there are no plans for the fire department to disband or do anything that might adversely affect fire service in the city.
Rice then listed the names of a number of fire chiefs before he said, “If you think this is a good ole boys and girls club, that’s wrong. Everything you purchase should be for the benefit and better enhancement of fire protection for the City of Sistersville.”
Wayne countered, “We weren’t licensed as rapid responders. Purchasing an ambulance cuts out the 15-20 minute wait time for Middlebourne (EMS) to get in here. That’s what we’re looking at. We’re looking at improving patient care and getting them to a facility that they need to be at to get the care they need.”
Rice shot back, “Now that being said, I told you I would help you and then what did you do to me? What did you do to city council?”
Wayne answered, “The way I understood it and this is what I’m trying to figure out, how does it benefit the fire department you did say EMS didn’t have a problem with us using their back-up ambulance. We couldn’t keep it in the bay. They have two squads, one crew. Their main truck goes down, we’re on a back-up truck we’re still waiting 15 minutes if their out for Middlebourne to come in. With us having this ambulance, it cuts down having to borrow a truck, having to wait for Middlebourne to come.”
Wayne said the ambulance service is able to sustain itself financially.
“We explained to you the other night that it is going to be self supporting,” he said.
Rice then said, “Let me ask you a question. Don’t you think Paden City would have an ambulance service if it was self supportive? Don’t you think New Martinsville Fire Department would not have shut that down if it was supportive if you couldn’t have made it?”
Glover fired back, “That is wrong,” before she explained that New Martinsville’s ambulance squad was shut down for other reasons. She said based on the volume of EMS calls, Tyler County is able to support an ambulance service.”
Next week’s story will be updated next to include not only the outcome of the special meeting held by city council, but address concerns about the viability of the ambulance service.