A proposed amendment to an intermunicipal agreement between the City of Warren and Pleasant Township created a spirited debate among Warren City Council members Monday night.
And now council wants to hear the public’s thoughts on the matter. Council passed a motion to hold a public hearing on the proposed amendment prior to the regular October meeting, scheduled for Oct. 19.
“I feel we need to give residents the opportunity in public meeting, a public hearing to discuss,” Council Vice-President John Wortman said. “I don’t think many people are aware of the agreement.”
The proposed amendment would increase the time City of Warren EMTs are paid to be stationed at the Pleasant Township Volunteer Fire Department. Under the current agreement, two city EMTs are at Pleasant’s station from 7:45 a.m. through 3:45 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The amendment would put them there from those times Monday through Friday.
“Right now, what we’re trying to do is solve an EMT problem where we’re not going to give up coverage in the city,” Warren Mayor Maurice Cashman said. “To enter into a 5-day period is going to give us more advantages.”
Opposition to the motion was strong, not just within the council, but from those who spoke during public comment as well.
“The county has no business coming in and taking resources bought and paid for by the city and redistributing them across the townships because the townships have a problem,” city resident Dave Wortman said. “It’s not the city’s responsibility to solve the townships’ problems for them.”
Much of the issue centers around what compensation the city gets in return for stationing two of its employees in Pleasant Township.
“Pleasant realizes they’re having an issue,” Fire Chief Rodney Wren said. “Members of Pleasant Township (VFD) are volunteers, they work other jobs and aren’t available during the day.
“Warren Manor sits in Pleasant,” he added. “We’re going over there on a regular basis. By law, we have to respond when we’re called.”
What the agreement does, Wren explained, is create a scenario where Pleasant Township pays for those calls instead of the city trying to get payment from an insurance provider.
“What you’re saying,” Council Member Gregory Fraser asked. “Is this agreement provides more compensation for the city for calls we would otherwise go uncompensated for?”
Wren answered affirmatively.
John Wortman motioned for the proposal to be tabled for a month so the public could get more information about the agreement. It passed 5-2 with Cashman and Fraser voting against.
Wortman later asked for a second motion, this time to schedule a public hearing prior to the regular council meeting in October.
“Many city residents do not understand the direction of these agreements,” he said.
“The state has said we have to respond to out of city mutual aid requests,” Fraser said. “We have to go with our ambulances to all four corners of the county. If we can get paid to do that at a better rate than what the insurance pays us, we have a responsibility to do that.”
The agreement takes the daytime staff at the city station from eight to six employees. Council Member Paul Giannini voiced concern that having fewer employees at the city station would lead to slower response times within city limits.
“I’m uncomfortable having our employees out of the city,” he said. “If we’re here, we respond faster to city residents. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have our employees outside the city. The city needs to come first.”
Expanding the agreement, and perhaps adding agreements with other municipalities around the county, would cause the city to hire more employees-paid for by the municipalities-to man those stations, Fraser argued.
“The first thing we did (after entering this agreement) was reduce our staff in the city,” Giannini said. “I feel like we’re going backwards by reducing our staff first. Our agreement is not putting Warren residents first by putting our employees at Pleasant.”
“The agreement, as written, goes against city residents,” Wortman added.