Commissioners, I feel very strong that you as a group need to put a lot more thought into reducing and/or phasing out the current ambulance fee. I understand that over time you plan to completely phase out the current ambulance fee but maintain the current staffing and services out of the general budget. My question is how? What is your plan? What do we expect in three years from now? How about five years from now? First, the current staffing plan has been working wonderfully but remember the call volume is increasing every year. How do you plan on meeting the growing needs with the current staffing plus meet the increase of keeping the current staffing with increases of cost of living raises, the cost of doing business, insurances, etc.etc. If you can do this then kudos to you, but I just don't see it happening. What I do see is things going backwards. The Volunteer Departments
and the JCESA have long range goals to make the Fire and EMS services even better, such as going back to state legislation and combining both a ambulance fee and fire fee to support our needs. The ESA would have much better chance in recruiting and retaining career staffing and not just let the agency be a stepping stone for employees coming in for a few years then moving onto other larger cities or career departments, employees would feel more secure knowing that there salary will be coming from a fee and not the general budget which we all know that can change at the drop of a hat. When Director Pouget presented her budget request couple weeks ago she was speaking in behalf of both the ESA and Volunteers as a whole and not just to increase the volunteer portion but also double the fee to create 13 new positions, 11 operational and 2 admin. The 11operational positions were for "Peak
Hours" where we know we are suffering and this would also help reduce response times, which is the number one priority of the ordinance but more importantly it is the right thing to do for our community. Several days ago Director Pouget reached out to all the volunteers and asked for their presence at todays meeting to show support of our mission that she presented, but ironically, there were only approx. 8 to 10 volunteers that could make it due to work schedules, might I add that this meeting took place during the "Peak Hours" that we are in fact speaking of. Food for thought: Our county Operational Guidelines recommend for a reported structure fire a minimum 19 firefighters on the initial alarm, twice as many that were present at today's meeting. Please put a lot more consideration into your thoughts on this before making a huge mistake.
Chief Ross L. Morgan, Shepherdstown Fire Department.