Springcreek Township OKs agreement with Piqua Fire


By Kathleen Leese

For Miami Valley Today

PIQUA — The Springcreek Township building was filled to overflowing with some of the crowd standing outside Monday evening, March 11. And the voices were heard as the trustees voted to continue their contract with the city of Piqua for fire and EMS services.

After the meeting began, Tom Hill, chairman of the Springcreek Trustees, told residents they already had Spirit EMS under contract, stated they had until March 31 to reach an agreement with Piqua and could use Spirit as back-up for Piqua.

The discussion, which lasted over two hours, found residents unwilling to wait any longer for the matter to be resolved. At times, the meeting became contentious, with raised voices and angered residents refusing to settle for anything less than Piqua Fire and Rescue Services.

Early in the meeting, a petition with over 600 signatures was presented to the trustees from Springcreek Township residents. The signatures had been collected over a 10 day period.

“They (residents) want the contract with the city of Piqua,” one resident said as the petition was dropped in front of the trustees. “There is more than adequate support for a levy.”

Hill responded that the trustees would “never talk against Piqua” and added, “things aren’t as dire as we thought (financially). Things are stable, very stable. We are going to need a levy regardless.”

When Hill pointed out that there had not been a “single complaint against them (Spirit),” he was met with chants of “Google it!” a reference to alleged reviews of Spirit online.

Jen Foster, a resident, told trustees, “I really think the voters should be the ones that decide this. It’s our money, our lives, to put that aside in favor of money is dangerous.”

Some residents expressed concern about homeowners insurance increasing if Fletcher Volunteer Fire Department were to take over service from Piqua. One resident indicated their insurance would increase by $500.

Hill said “insurance does not change” if there is a change in fire service. He noted Fletcher could deliver 8,000 gallons of water in 20 minutes, to which some residents countered that Piqua could arrive in five minutes, sparing the loss of their homes.

Residents expressed concern about having adequate rescue service and trained paramedics in the event of a serious medical emergency.

One resident noted he nearly lost his wife last year from a heart attack and wanted a service that “can show up, save lives. When you’re doing triage, minutes matter.”

The question of trained paramedics was a concern to those present.

Resident Claudia McGrath said Spirit allegedly could not handle cardiac emergencies or “terrible injuries” and that by contrast, Piqua has seven paramedics on each shift.

“This is about our lives,” she told trustees.

Tom Lillicrap asked trustees, “what made (trustees) make this decision on our behalf? I’m really concerned … I would like to have my life depend on Piqua.”

Lillicrap told the trustees, “most of the people in Springcreek Township could afford another $100 to $200” for the safety of their families.

Hill told residents the Township was committed to the Spirit contract, which cost the Township $161,500.

Brian Brown, Operations Manager for Spirit EMS, was asked to address the crowd, filling in for Brian Hathaway, Spirit President and CEO, who is out of the country attending a conference.

Brown said, “We (Spirit) simply mean no one any harm.” He addressed a phone call which was allegedly made to their dispatch on March 9, and said it was uncalled for.

Brown told the residents that Spirit could only guarantee one ambulance for Springcreek Township and it was “not guaranteed (there would be) paramedics.”

Christina Baughman became emotional as she spoke.

“Obviously there is a problem. It affects a lot of people. You guys made a decision based on finances.” She began to cry as she added, “sign the contract (with Piqua) tonight. Please sign the contract tonight.”

Following her comments, residents began shouting in unison, “sign the contract tonight!”

After addressing the fact that Piqua offers 24/7 support, 7-10 paramedics on a shift (and the ability to call in off-duty paramedics/firefighters and four available rescue squads versus Spirit offering one ambulance and no guaranteed paramedic, residents noted this was a “quality issue.”

After the lengthy discussion and demands from residents to settle the matter Monday night, trustees voted and approved continuing service with Piqua Fire and Rescue at a cost of $171,358. There will be no back-up from Spirit EMS. The vote was unanimous.

It was noted Spirit will still receive the $161,500 from the Township and will not be supplying any services to the township.

Residents did stress they will work with trustees to approve a levy later this year that will continue to provide Piqua Fire and EMS services to the township.

Paul Oberdorfer, city manager for Piqua, along with Thomas Hohman, city commissioner, were in attendance at the meeting, with Oberdorfer telling the trustees they cannot depend on a private company such as Spirit to provide back-up to Piqua.

“There is a liability,” he explained, between public and private entities.

In a statement released to Miami Valley Today Tuesday morning, Oberdorfer said, “We are pleased that the Springcreek Township trustees have voted for their residents to continue to receive fire and emergency medical services from the city of Piqua. This long-standing partnership ensures the safety of residents and students in the township, a service we are proud to provide for our community. I am pleased that we have been able to reach an agreeable solution to make the cost of fire and EMS services affordable for the townships while allowing the city to balance the budget for our fire department. Our focus remains on the safety and wellbeing of the residents of the city of Piqua and our neighbors in Springcreek and Washington Townships. We look forward to a continued relationship with our neighbors and providing critical services when they are needed most.”

It was also noted that the agreement with Springcreek Township will go before City Commission for approval at the March 19 regular meeting. There will be no interruption of fire/EMS service to residents.

According to city officials, Washington Township has not yet reached an agreement with Piqua and has until March 31 to make a decision.

The writer is a contributor to Miami Valley Today.

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