Franklin begins preparations for new EMS

Now that voters have approved a 3.5-mill property tax levy to create Franklin’s own EMS division, the city is taking steps to acquire ambulances, hire up to eight part time personnel, create job descriptions, determine a medical director who will establish protocol, create a capital improvement program to maintain a reliable fleet of ambulances and the equipment needed to provide emergency medical care among other things.

“All that and more has to be done by the time this thing gets started on Jan. 1, 2013,” said Franklin Fire Chief Jonathan Westerndorf, adding that all items are being worked on simultaneously by the entire fire department staff. “This is going to be a total team effort. The voters understand we are trying to change this town for the good, so now it is full steam ahead.”

One of the first things that must be done is city council must approve a resolution to officially withdraw from the Joint Emergency Medical Services organization it has been part of since 1982. City councilman Jason Faulkner confirmed that could happen as soon as council’s next meeting on Monday.

“The ballot should be certified on Aug. 20, and I anticipate a resolution to withdraw coming out of our meeting that night,” Faulkner said Monday at the JEMS board meeting. The effective date of a withdrawal would be Jan. 1, 2013.

The question then becomes what assets the city will acquire from JEMS. Westendorf said he believes the city will get two ambulances in the settlement. JEMS officials think otherwise, so it will be up to the Warren County Auditor’s Office to determine how to divide the assets and equipment.

Warren County Auditor Nick Nelson said once Franklin approves the resolution to withdraw, he will need a complete inventory of assets in order to distribute them based on their tax valuation.

However, Nelson said there is “some question” between the city’s attorney and the JEMS district attorney with regard to the distribution of equipment as part of the assets.

The way state law is written is causing a discrepancy on whether or not equipment will be included in the distribution, according to Nelson.

“I believe the intent was the withdrawing entity would be entitled to its share including equipment, but there is a question about it,” Nelson said. “Hopefully there will be some agreement on who gets what, but I will look to the (Warren County) prosecutor to advise me on any questions in the statute.”

Regardless of the division of assets, JEMS chief Andy Riddiough said he now has a clear direction on what he needs to do next since the city was successful in passing its levy.

“We believe the city will be withdrawing from JEMS, so we now must educate our remaining citizens on our levy,” Riddiough said of the district’s 2.61-mill property tax levy that will be on the November ballot for voters in Carlisle and Franklin Twp. “We’ll probably do some door-to-door and mailings, but it will depend on our financing for that process. JEMS hasn’t asked for a levy in 17 years and I think that says a lot about what they have done with the money they were given 17 years ago.”

JEMS board members Scott Boschert, a Carlisle councilman, and Ron Ruppert, a Franklin Twp. Trustee, agreed the focus is now on the JEMS levy.

“We just have to move forward, worry about the people of Carlisle and the township and hope our levy passes,” Boschert said. “I don’t think we’ll be able to continue without it.”

Ruppert believes the district will be able to operate regardless.

“We would be able to operate on some level, but just not the same level,” Ruppert said if the levy does not pass. “We would just have to make cuts to continue providing service.”

The new JEMS tax levy will generate approximately $733,000 a year and cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $80 annually. That will be in addition to the two existing levies that bring in nearly $300,000 for the two communities and costs those residents about $30 a year.

Among the many issues to be addressed is how to fill the vacancy on the board, which will drop to two people once Franklin withdraws.

“I’m sure this is not anything that will prohibit JEMS from operating as a joint ambulance district,” said JEMS attorney Phil Callahan. “But it is one of many issues that will need to be addressed.”

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