Hobart officials consider privatizing city's emergency services

2013-01-09T21:45:00Z 2013-01-16T20:02:06Z Hobart officials consider privatizing city's emergency servicesDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | City officials are exploring the possibility of privatizing Hobart's emergency medical services, said City Councilman David Vinzant, D-5th.

Vinzant confirmed city officials, including Mayor Brian Snedecor and Fire Chief Brian Taylor, met Wednesday with Superior Ambulance representatives to hear a proposal.

"We're doing what every other community is doing, which is looking at options. We have to find a way to cut costs. Clearly other communities are finding it's working for them," Vinzant said.

City officials also have had a previous meeting with Prompt Ambulance representatives, Vinzant said.

"It's the kind of thing we have to look at and understand our options. If we can't pay our payroll, we can't continue services," Vinzant said.

Privatization of the city's ambulance services is something the union strongly opposes because it could potentially mean the loss of 12 to 14 firefighters, Tom Castle said.

Castle, a veteran firefighter, is president of Hobart Firefighters Union Local 1641.

"We're hoping this doesn't happen," Castle said.

The Hobart Fire Department currently has on its roster 50 firefighters who are cross-trained as either paramedics or emergency medical technicians.

"They (city officials) want to get us to around 36 firefighters and we're 50 right now," Castle said.

Vinzant said it's not known at this time how many jobs would be lost because all the cost figures have not been compiled and examined.

"There are no plans to do this next week. It's still being investigated," Vinzant said.

Castle said union representatives were not invited to sit in on the meeting with Superior but were told afterward by Taylor.

Neither Taylor nor Snedecor could be reached for comment.

Union Local 1641 plans to hold an emergency meeting of its executive board in the next few days to discuss the issue, Castle said.

"There's been rumors before that have been circulating, but all of a sudden it's happening," Castle said.

Vinzant said other cities, including East Chicago, have privatized their ambulance service and had good success.

"When you have a private firm the services are paid for by those who use it. Taxpayers recognize the benefit because it is a service that isn't subsidized by taxes," Vinzant said.

Castle said he's hoping Hobart isn't the next community to privatize its emergency services.

"I'd hate to see this the next domino that falls," Castle said.

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