Chesterton Tribune

Burns Harbor Fire Department seeks advanced care ambulance service

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At its July 11 meeting the Burns Harbor Town Council will hear how the town Fire Department proposes to expand its basic ambulance service by adding an advanced-life-support ambulance for critically-ill patients.

State licensing to operate an ALS rig with specially trained paramedics would take four or five months, said department liaison councilman Mike Perrine, but the council needs to approve the proposal first before anything can be submitted.

A public hearing was set for next month to appropriate $75,000 from the town’s cumulative capital development fund and $50,000 from the rainy day fund for the start-up equipment, ambulance and initial staffing. Perrine said local businesses have donated an additional $50,000 for equipment; if the project isn’t implemented, the money will be returned.

Perrine said state money might be available for salaries under a new grant program, and town attorney Bob Welsh was asked to research if CCDF money can be used for salaries.

Fire chief Bill Arney said with everything there is to do, the ALS ambulance likely wouldn’t be put into service until late this year or early 2013.

Councilman Greg Miller said it looks like the council is moving in that direction so a budget estimate for the project has to be developed. Perrine said that can be supplied next month.

Councilman Jeff Freeze suggested Arney contact officials at the new St. Anthony Hospital 24-hour emergency facility in Chesterton as an optional location to transport ambulance patients.

Because it’s seeking an additional appropriation to allocate money for the ambulance service, the council was under the gun to comply by July 1 with a new Indiana law or risk having the appropriation denied. After a lengthy discussion members voted 5-0 to adopt the state’s minimum requirements regarding nepotism and contracting with a relative.

At issue was whether the council wanted to be more restrictive in its local resolution and include clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan, whose husband Kurt regularly provides free computer services to the town but at times charges for parts or on larger projects.

Comparable tech services can run about $200 an hour, said Jane Jordan, who annually files a conflict of interest statement identifying her husband as doing work for the town.

"Are we shooting ourselves in the foot by being stricter than the state?” asked councilman Jeff Freeze.

Perrine said for 20 years he’s provided free repairs to the town’s HVAC systems but will discontinue doing so in light of the new law. “I think it’s too slippery a slope for me.”

Miller said including all elected officials would avoid the appearance of unethical behavior and increase public trust. Council president Jim McGee wanted the ban to extend to department heads. “This is Burns Harbor. Let’s set the example for everybody,” he said.

Welsh and councilman Gene Weibl said it’s a new law that will have a shake-down period and might be tweaked in the future.

Another new law taking effect July 1 is a smoking ban in public places, said Jordan, which includes all town buildings and vehicles. No smoking will be allowed a specified distance from municipal buildings, and no ashtrays can be located in the smoke-free zone leading to speculation Wednesday that cigarette butts will litter the building entrances.

It was agreed the new restrictions will be included in the town’s personnel and police manuals.

Voting unanimously, members gave final approval to re-establishing the CCDF rate at a maximum $0.04 on each $100 of assessed valuation. That would generate approximately $202,066 a year compared to the current $29,805 annual revenue from a half-cent rate.

The request now goes to state tax officials for approval. The council earlier this year requested a maximum $0.05 rate but it was sent back because Burns Harbor was ineligible to seek that amount.

During a required public hearing council members said they have no specific plans for the new money at this time but priorities will be established. Collections won’t begin until 2013.

Posted 6/14/2012