Possible removal of Hobart's Emergency Medical Services sparks heated debate

2013-01-20T20:03:00Z 2013-02-23T20:18:05Z Possible removal of Hobart's Emergency Medical Services sparks heated debate Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | William Krebes is willing to pay more taxes if it means keeping the city's Emergency Medical Services in place.

Krebes' wife, who works at Joan Martin School, was promptly taken care of by Hobart's EMS personnel after she collapsed there recently.

Service like that is what attracts people to live and settle in Hobart, Krebes said.

"I'm totally against reducing the EMS services. I don't see any austerity cliff. I hope this does not go through," Krebes said.

The city has recently begun talking about privatizing its EMS service.

Krebes was one of several residents and public officials discussing the issue at last week's City Council meeting

Also protesting the removal of the city's EMS was Marge Hansen, the mother of fallen firefighter Ted Hansen and Theresa Sielski, Ted's sister.

Sielski pointed out that manpower the day her brother died nearly 18 years ago fighting a house fire was at 14 per shift and is only 12 now.

"I'm hoping and praying that there will never be another Hobart family walking in our shoes," Sielski said.

Mayor Brian Snedecor said the matter of exploring this issue is "what every community has to do."

Snedecor called the meeting a fact-finding measure.

"Whoever railed to the media was premature. We are exploring to make sure we consider all our options. The rush to panic the public was premature," Snedecor said.

City Councilman David Vinzant, D-5th, who was at last week's meeting, confirmed city officials met with Superior Ambulance representatives to hear a proposal.

City 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.

"And I think there's a large group of residents who oppose it," Castle said following Wednesday's City Council meeting.

He said his union's executive board already held an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.

"And then we got our game plan together," Castle said.

That includes connecting with union representatives at the state, district and national level.

The International Association of Firefighters already has agreed to come in and pay for a financial study of the city.

"We want to approach this professionally and with level heads. We want to work with the city and show them this is a bad idea," Castle said.

"Once they look at the data and facts we are compiling they will agree with us that this is not a good idea for the city of Hobart," Castle said.

The city is estimating that the ambulance services collects $700,00, but expenditures are $1.2 million, Castle said.

"I can guarantee there is a way to improve billing and make us more efficient,' Castle said.

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

City officials have indicated they want to reduce that number to about 36, Castle said.

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