Township approves special assessment

DeMarse

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Township Board on Tuesday approved a .19-mill increase to the special assessment that funds its fire department to finance the purchase of a used ambulance and expand the department’s ability to respond to emergency medical calls.

“If you think about it, we’re going on these calls anyway, and if we have an opportunity to recoup some of that cost, how can we not?” Supervisor Lyn Durant said.

The unanimous approval increases the special assessment to 2.69 mills for a period of one year to be levied in December 2017 and collected early 2018.

One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value, and township officials said the average homeowner will pay an extra $19 under the increase.

Unlike millage proposals, special assessments can be changed by a vote of the board, rather than a ballot item decided by township residents.

Durant

Officials said the increase will cover the roughly $40,600 total cost of purchasing the ambulance and equipping it with the necessary equipment, as well as insurance, required inspections and licensing through the state.

The ambulance has about 85,000 miles and is being purchased from the downstate Delta Township Fire Department, which will deliver the vehicle to the Marquette Township Fire Department. Officials said bank financing allowing for the purchase was approved, and will be paid off through the special assessment increase.

“We’re probably looking from the time we actually secure the funding from the bank a three-months time period to totally licensing the unit and put it on the road,” Fire Chief Ron DeMarse said, adding the delay is mostly due to a backlog at the state licensing agency, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Emergency Medical Services Section.

DeMarse said the township likely won’t receive financial reimbursements through insurers for an additional three months after service begins due to billing processes, which will be handled by a company that specializes in those procedures.

The fire department — which is licensed as a basic life support, or BLS, entity — already responds to emergency medical service calls, but lacks the ability to transport patients and collect expense reimbursements through patients’ insurance companies.

“You look at public safety services, I mean, it’s police, fire and EMS,” DeMarse said. “We had the EMS, but we had a very limited component of it. … We’re now going to have complete ability to respond to the call, treat the patient and to transport the patient.”

As a BLS provider, the department will be able to assist patients suffering from cardiac arrest, respiratory distress or an obstructed airway, along with other less severe issues, according to the American Red Cross.

Critics of the township’s ambulance proposal recently questioned the department’s ability to respond to more serious medical conditions that require response from an entity certified in ALS, or advanced life support, as well as a duplication of services considering existing hospital ambulances and straining the department’s three full-time employees.

“We’ve got sufficient staff,” DeMarse said. “During the day we’re well covered, and that was always one of the goals as we hired new people, to make sure they’re certified EMTs. In the evening we rely a lot on our part(-time) paid people, but we have a number of them that are also EMTs.”

Officials said previously if the department is first on scene to a situation in which an ALS response is required, the department will be the transporting entity and receive the insurance reimbursements — as long as a paramedic trained in ALS accompanies the firefighters in the ambulance.

DeMarse said a majority of the fire department’s calls occur during normal work hours, and that around 70 percent of the total calls are for medical issues, something that has been increasing over recent years.

“By moving forward with this, if we find out after a year, 18 months it’s not what we want, … the ambulance is there,” Treasurer Ernie Johnson said. “That does have a residual value, so we can put it out for sale, along with probably a lot of the equipment too.”

Ryan Jarvi can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is rjarvi@miningjournal.net.