HOBART | The status of Hobart's emergency medical services continued to be a hot-button issue at the City Council meeting Wednesday.
Mayor Brian Snedecor and several council members, including City Councilman David Vinzant. D-5th, defended the city's proposal to investigate the possibility of privatization of ambulance services.
"I'm not saying I don't want the EMS. I'm saying let's investigate," Snedecor said.
Snedecor said he plans to hire a consultant to study the possible elimination of the city-run EMS and look at the city's Fire Department.
"I talked to a consultant today but made no agreement," Snedecor said.
Snedecor said he wants the consultant to look at ways to cut costs from top to bottom within the Fire Department, including equipment, scheduling and services.
"We need to get our facts together. Nothing will be hidden. We need to make well-informed decisions, and we need to do our due diligence," Snedecor said.
Councilwoman Monica Wiley, D-at large, spoke in favor of keeping the EMS versus going with a private company.
"I've had dealings with both," Wiley said.
Wiley said it took over an hour for a private ambulance service to pick up her husband for a transit to a hospital.
"That's a long time," she said. "We need to also look at other departments as far as cutting costs as well."
Resident Larry Brown told officials that they should consider making other cuts before trimming the public safety budget. He suggested reducing the number of days city employees work and cutting their pay.
"The last thing we want to make changes to is public safety," Brown said.
City officials met Jan. 9 with Superior Ambulance representatives to hear a privatization proposal, Vinzant said.
Officials also had a previous meeting with Prompt Ambulance representatives, Vinzant said.
Privatization of the city's ambulance services is something Hobart Professional Firefighters Local 1641 strongly opposes because it could potentially mean the loss of 12 to 14 firefighters, said Tom Castle, the union's president.
The city is estimating that the ambulance services collects $700,000, but expenditures are $1.2 million, Castle said.
The Hobart Fire Department currently has on its roster 50 firefighters who are cross-trained as either paramedics or emergency medical technicians.