Gothard: It’s about safeguarding lives, not power plays (column)
The Summit Daily News editorial of June 23 merits a spirited response, addressing an issue the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District did not create and does not desire.
Red, White and Blue (RWB) has been doing its share — more than its share. Over more than a dozen years, the residents of Breckenridge and RWB have enjoyed the benefits of a fully functional emergency medical service, with two ambulances responding with fully-qualified district staff and the service being completely paid for by the district. Ironically, the county gets all the revenue, even though it does not participate in providing any of the costs of the district service, after the district receives revenues amounting to its $400,000, county-imposed revenue cap.
Now, Summit County has asked for even more. It’s our position that it is not fiscally responsible to district taxpayers to give more personnel, equipment and resources, which are paid for by district taxpayer funds, to cure the county’s problems outside the district.
Our decision to open a new substation on Peak 7, with a paramedic squad, is totally common sense, because the growing call volume demands it. Our decision was reasoned and practical, because those firefighter-paramedics will also be equipped to respond to fire, rescue, wildfire and any other type of emergency call.
Most importantly, RWB’s fire services professionals and taxpayer-elected board believe that requiring even more RWB resources to serve outside its district will put the health and safety of RWB residents and visitors in jeopardy. For some reason, county management believes it is better qualified to make this decision than the professionals of RWB. The county relies on a consulting report that RWB did not support, and in which it does not have confidence, and RWB, contrary to the county’s claims, did not agree to the findings. RWB has offered to enter into a truly collaborative process, not one run by county management, and engage a jointly agreed-upon third party consultant to evaluate and offer options for ambulance service to the entire county. Why does the county government reject these suggestions?
In the end, by terminating the mutual aid agreement, county management is denying the residents and visitors of RWB, on an as-needed basis, the services of three professionally staffed district ambulances. This ultimately impacts all of Summit County as county government scrambles to fill in for these scheduled losses. Service by the three RWB ambulances within our district would allow county government to concentrate on serving the remainder of the county, including the financially lucrative out-of-county transports that originate outside Red, White and Blue. (Red, White and Blue has always handled all out-of-county transports that originated from within its district, and has offered to continue to do so).
County management’s primary demand that RWB take out-of-county transports originating outside its district, while the county retains all the revenue, is neither responsible government, nor, and most importantly, in the best interests of public safety.
We’re not being obstinate, or difficult. Our residents — the people who elect us as directors — have made it very clear they want a superb standard of service. That’s why we are so proud of our accreditation, and our Class 2 ISO rating. And our taxpayers tell us the decisions we’ve made to serve them are the right decisions and we should continue to stand by them.
We’re open to suggestions for a new agenda for EMS in Summit County. Until then, we’ll continue to answer calls, render aid and work to save lives. That’s the real agenda, in fact the only agenda we’re following and will continue to follow.
Arch Gothard is the chairman of Red, White & Blue Board of Directors.
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