Belpre City Council to discuss EMT struggles

BELPRE – Belpre City Council is expected to discuss issues the city’s volunteer fire department is having in affording its emergency medical technicians at tonight’s council meeting at the Belpre City Building.

Mayor Mike Lorentz said he and other city officials have not had the ability to privately discuss the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department’s plight since the July 8 council meeting where BVFD representatives approached council.

“I fully expect we will discuss the EMT situation during (tonight’s) meeting,” Lorentz said on Friday afternoon.

Last month, Eric Sinnett II, president of the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department Association, told council the department will soon have to drop its four EMT/firefighters because there soon will no longer funds available to pay them.

At the time, Sinnett, who is also son of 3rd Ward Councilman and longtime firefighter Eric Sinnett, said the department does not know when it will run out of money needed to pay the two full-time and two part-time EMTs. The payment of those four medics takes 75 percent of the department’s budget.

For more than 15 years, the department has employed at least two EMT/firefighters at no cost to the city or the citizens who receive the benefits, according to Sinnett II.

Lorentz and Safety-Service Director Dave Ferguson were notified of the department’s concerns in May. In July, Lorentz said the city and department needed to work the issue out together.

“The fire department has spoiled the city because they have maintained the buildings, equipment and gear for years and now the city does not know how to react,” the mayor said.

The department made more than 800 medical squad runs in 2012 and made more than 700 of those runs in the past seven months, according to councilman Sinnett. This means the fire department has already used more than 90 percent of its budget for the year.

Sinnett II pointed out that in 2009, the city started third party billing for emergency medical runs with 20 percent of the funds collected going to the department and the other 80 percent going to the city’s general fund.

Making the volunteer department a city entity will take a popular vote from the whole of the city, not only council.

Council president Will Neff said the issue would be a referendum and would likely include a fee, income tax or other form of payment to keep the department going.

There is no set date for the decision to relieve the EMTs of their duties; however, the fire department will provide the city administration and council with written notification of at least two months.