Maumee City Council Rejects Proposed Agreement To Provide Regional Advanced Life Support Services

Maumee paramedic Ryan Pearson explains the equipment in the ambulance to (from left) Austin Stein, Jaxson Kujawa, Sophia Peternel and Kinley Byrd during an April 2023 open house. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Citing “too many unanswered questions and a myriad of ambiguous language,” Maumee City Council has voted against accepting a proposed agreement from Lucas County to provide countywide Advanced Life Support (ALS) services.

“The contract lacks clarity,” said Maumee Mayor Jim MacDonald. “Our law director feels that it doesn’t completely protect us. It raises liability questions.”

Council met in executive session on March 18 and returned to general session to vote without discussion.

The city issued a press release on March 19, stating that moving forward with the agreement could put the safety of citizens at risk while creating a negative impact on the financial health of the city.

For the last few years, Lucas County deputy administrator Matt Heyrman has been working with area fire chiefs and community leaders on coming up with a mutually agreeable contract that would put the county-run ALS system into the hands of local municipalities. 

“Safety is our top priority. After two years of working collaboratively with the fire chiefs throughout Lucas County, we are confident that a regional approach that provides local control to the provision of Advanced Life Support services makes sense,” said the Board of Lucas County Commissioners in a statement.

The county formed an ALS service in 1992, at a time when most departments didn’t have enough paramedics on staff to provide care to someone experiencing cardiac arrest or life-threatening injuries.

Funded by a countywide .25-percent sales tax that last year brought in over $20 million, the county currently provides $804,000 a year to each of 10 area fire departments that house and operate the county units, including Life Squad 7 in Maumee. 

Under the proposed contract from the county, the service would be split up into six regions, with Maumee and Monclova teaming up to provide ALS service for the South region. Without any productive discussions, Maumee and Monclova decided to each cover their own jurisdictions. If both signed the contract, each would receive $402,000 a year. Monclova has not yet signed the agreement but announced plans to meet with Heyrman in the next few weeks.

It costs Maumee approximately $1.7 million a year to operate the Life Squad, according to the city. So a reduction from $804,000 to $402,000 to provide essentially the same coverage would create a financial bind, MacDonald said.

On average, 77 percent of the ALS calls currently handled by the Maumee Life Squad are not within Maumee city limits – they are usually in Toledo, MacDonald pointed out. He doesn’t see how that would change with the new contract.

“All we can go by is what we’ve experienced up to this point,” he said. “We can’t sign an agreement based on what could happen but what history has shown. It’s pretty hard for our council to understand why we should fund a county rig at our fire division at 75 percent of the cost when 77 percent of the runs are going outside of our city. The current agreement is going to bind you to be called where and when needed – not only the Life Squad but any other units you have in the house.”

This contradicts the desire of Maumee voters who, in November, approved a 5.6-mill levy to fund around-the-clock fire and EMS service in Maumee, he noted. Right now, the city is going through collective bargaining discussions in order to move forward with hiring the necessary staff to meet that goal, MacDonald said.

The individual Maumee units are already ALS-certified, so the decision not to fund a Life Squad would not create a shortfall in service for Maumee residents, he said.

The city still values and plans to honor mutual aid agreements with other municipalities, helping neighbors out with large fires and natural disasters. 

“We’re committed to mutual aid with our partners. We know how important that is – we all get into situations where we need help,” MacDonald said.

The city harbors no ill will toward the county in its efforts to provide the best countywide emergency services, but voters agreed to financially support that service through a .25-percent sales tax that was put into place in 1993, MacDonald said.

“They collect $20 million with that. All residents in the county pay, including Maumee people. Under this agreement, the county would be paying out $8.5 million (to entities signing the contract). You can do the math,” he said.

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