Ambulance service based in Marquette Township a positive

We’ve all heard the saying that minutes count, particularly when we’re talking about emergency response situations. Whether it’s an open water rescue of a drowning victim on Lake Superior or an emergency call for a serious car accident, how quickly our first responders can get to the scene and transport patients to the hospital is of extreme importance.

Those minutes count, and we thank all of the first responders out there for their tireless commitment and the very vital service they provide to the many Upper Peninsula residents who rely on them when they are most needed.

From paramedics to police and firefighters, it takes a dedicated group of people to work these jobs, and the need is always there.

That’s why we were pleased to hear of Marquette Township officials discussing a possible expansion to the services provided by the Marquette Township Fire Department.

Last week, the township board and its staff held a work session to discuss the addition of an ambulance to its fleet of vehicles.

The ambulance would be operated by members of the fire department, many of whom are already trained as emergency medical technicians.

One small item township taxpayers should be aware of is that some of you may see a slight, and temporary, increase to the special assessment levy you pay for fire services.

Unlike a millage ballot proposal, township officials say this assessment, following a public hearing on the topic, can be changed by a vote of the board, rather than by a vote of the people.

Currently, those taxpayers in the special assessment district are paying 2.5 mills for fire and emergency services, and that levy could go up anywhere from .1 mill to .25 mill.

Township officials tell us that a .25-mill levy would raise about $56,000. That’s enough, they believe, needed to purchase a reliable, used ambulance vehicle, and a small enough fee, it seems, to not break taxpayers’ banks.

The increase to the special assessment would depend on how cheap officials can find a used ambulance that will serve their purposes, and the hike might only be for a single year, just long enough to pay off the purchase of the ambulance. After that, the emergency transport service would have to fit within the department’s normal operating budget, they said.

Another point that should be made is that the township’s fire crews, which are licensed to provide basic life support services, already report to the scene of accidents and other emergency calls — they just aren’t getting any money for it.

If they’re able to transport patients, which their licensing allows for, they’ll get reimbursed certain expenses through insurance.

Officials expect that to cover the cost of operating the ambulance service, so essentially the expense of purchasing the vehicle seems to be the major obstacle.

Some of the more serious calls would still require response from an entity licensed in providing advanced life support services, and the township’s would be on an on-call basis after normal business hours — due to the nature of the fire department’s staffing — so the existing EMS personnel aren’t being pushed out of a job.

Regardless, we believe this effort would still provide an extra layer of medical support, especially if other ambulances in the area are busy elsewhere, and for the one-year, quarter-mill price tag, it seems a small price to pay for a service as important as this one.