GARY | The Calumet Township trustee on Thursday will symbolically pull the plug on her office's once expensive and controversial emergency medical services when she hands over the keys to her fleet of ambulances to a new owner.
Trustee Mary Elgin will give the vehicles, worth tens of thousands of dollars, to Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson at 10:30 a.m. at the township’s Multi-Purpose Center, 1900 W. 41st Ave.
Stafford Garbutt, executive aide to Elgin, said Tuesday that the township ended its ambulance service about a year ago.
“So these ambulances were just sitting around, and the township board agreed with the trustee to donate them to the city to help out Gary, which is going through a tough time,” Garbutt said.
Prompt Ambulance Service, of Merrillville, has been providing exclusive emergency medical services for residents of the 6-square-mile section of unincorporated Calumet Township bounded by Gary, Griffith and Merrillville for about a year at no cost to the township, said Joe Merry, a Prompt official.
The trustee's office previously spent an average of $1.3 million a year since 2003, paying township employees to provide a similar service with township-equipped ambulances.
Griffith Town Councilman Rick Ryfa, a longtime critic of the trustee's office, has denounced the public cost of all township services — including its former emergency medical service — as justification for the town to secede from Calumet Township and relieve itself of the township's heavy tax burden.
"It shows a complete disregard for the people supporting with their tax dollars," Ryfa said. "Even though (Griffith) taxpayers weren't affected by the emergency medical costs, town officials have taken a strong position against it. And it was part of our testimony downstate to the Legislature the last couple of years to show the mismanagement and waste of dollars."