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BURRELL TOWNSHIP: Supervisors to discuss ambulance proposal

by CHAUNCEY ROSS chauncey@indianagazette.net on August 22, 2013 11:00 AM

BLACK LICK — Laurel Valley EMS, an ambulance company based in New Florence, has asked municipal officials for support in extending its territory as the first-responding emergency medical service in southern Indiana County.

The Burrell Township supervisors agreed Wednesday to talk with other local township leaders and representatives of Laurel Valley EMS about the company’s proposal to respond in areas now serviced by Citizens’ Ambulance Service.

Scott Poorbaugh, a division chief at Laurel Valley, told the supervisors that his company could base an ambulance at the Black Lick Volunteer Fire Company station in Black Lick.

“If I got enough townships bolted together over here, I could put a truck here in Black Lick,” Poorbaugh said. “I’d like to be your primary EMS responder, that means I’m the first one out the door — if not, then the second EMS responder is the one you have now. So it can only get better, it can’t get worse.”

Citizens’, which is headquartered in Indiana and operates stations in Blairsville and Clyde, is the primary responder in most of southern Indiana County.

Laurel Valley EMS is the first company called for emergencies in sections of Indiana County closest to New Florence, including southern sections of East Wheatfield and West Wheatfield Townships, said Thomas Stutzman, director the Indiana County Emergency Management Agency.

Under state Department of Health guidelines, local 911 services are required to dispatch the nearest emergency service provider when a life-threatening situation is reported.

Those emergency responders also must be licensed by the state, Stutzman said.

“State law says the closest available licensed EMS provider, based on the location of the station, is to be dispatched,” Stutzman said. “Between the EMS providers, there has to be an agreement as to the physical location of those stations. And we are directed by our medical command that our dispatchers have to recognize the closest available EMS provider and dispatch them when emergency calls come in.”

Although local officials such as township supervisors may make recommendations for service providers, Stutzman said state law dictates which ambulance has to be sent in emergencies.

Gary Miller, the emergency services coordinator for Burrell Township, told the supervisors that Poorbaugh was contacted “after a number of incidents we have had involving fire and EMS ... and we started looking into some things from an emergency management standpoint,” but he didn’t discuss specific incidents that generated local interest in Laurel Valley EMS.

“I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to invade Burrell Township,” Poorbaugh said. “These guys (at the Black Lick fire company) contacted me and this is what I came up with. And I am very confident I can put a system in place that will improve what you have currently.”

Poorbaugh said he earlier spoke to officials in Black Lick Township and East Wheatfield Township about first-response designation.

“We want your input, and if you have some interest in it, we can continue toward this,” Poorbaugh said. “What I’ve been telling the rest of the townships, if you give me a shot at it, it won’t be worse than what you have now.”

“I have a lot of questions. Our primary concern is whether we would have the same or better quality service than what anybody else can provide,” said supervisor Anthony Distefano. “We are certainly open to get better service. We’re not dissatisfied with Citizens’. … But the fact that you are suggesting that we talk to them is enough for me. I think our main concern is will service get better.

“And the second concern is you have a population here that is used to having one provider, and any time anything changes, there is a certain amount of resistance or panic. We need to talk about how the individual people are going to be served.”

Poorbaugh also told supervisor Chairman John Shields that Laurel Valley would honor subscription rates set up between Citizens’ and Burrell Township residents, if the company became the local responder.

Poorbaugh agreed to coordinate a meeting of supervisors in the three townships to talk about the plan.

“Let’s get all of us together in one spot and go from there,” he said. “That way we can talk intelligently about it. This is an important decision.”

In other business, the supervisors:

• Took away the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District’s voice in shaping the local recreation programs.

Noting that the school district has stopped contributing money to operation of the Burrell Township Recreation and Parks Board, the supervisors voted to amend the ordinance that dictates how the regulating board is formed.

Since 1998, the township supervisors have been entitled to appoint seven of the nine board members, and the school district has had authority to fill two seats.

“The district had been donating money to the park and rec board … for a summer youth program for the kids,” Distefano said. “Some time ago, budget constraints dictated that they would no longer do that.

“Now the school district no longer has any interest in the park board — a financial interest, which is why they were given the two board seats.”

Distefano proposed to reduce the size of the board to seven members, all to be appointed by the supervisors.

The supervisors voted 3-0 to change the ordinance and to refer the amendment to solicitor William Shulick, of Blairsville, to have it written for public review and formal enactment later.

• Voted to appoint Kimberly L. Henry, of Black Lick, to a seat on the Burrell Township Library board of directors. Henry will complete a three-year term left open by the resignation of Betty Cochran.

• Authorized members of the Black Lick Volunteer Fire Company to help control traffic Saturday during a 5K footrace sponsored by Black Lick United Methodist Church and to temporarily close streets if necessary to maintain the safety of the runners.

• Announced that the Park and Recreation Board will sponsor the annual community picnic from 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 15 at Burrell Park.

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