Kennett to discuss Regional EMS proposal, Aug. 2

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By Eliza Mohler, Staff Writer, The Times

Township Supervisors Richard Leff, Whitney Hoffman, and Scudder Stevens discuss plans for a regional EMS commission.

KENNETT – Do you want a say in the future of local fire and emergency medical services? The Board of Supervisors is inviting the public to share their thoughts on the proposed EMS Regional Commission at a meeting on Wednesday, August 2 at 7 p.m.

In addition to Kennett, five other municipalities have been invited to consider joining the commission: East Marlborough, Kennett Square Borough, Newlin, Pennsbury, and Pocopson. Four of the six will need to agree to join in order for the commission to move forward.

The plan for a commission was formed as the recommended next step after a task force was formed in 2013 to review the allocation of funds to Longwood, Kennett, and Po-Mar-Lin fire companies. A 200+ page study was conducted to mandate spending, allocation of funds, and to provide transparency to residents.

The group would include representation from each municipality and each fire department to serve a one-year term, and then three years after the initial term. Commission members cannot have served on an EMS team within the last five years. Allocations of funds will take into consideration population, assumed value, and number of fire and EMS responses.

During the board of supervisors meeting on Wednesday night, Chairman Scudder Stevens led an open discussion with representatives from the Longwood Fire Company and Kennett Square Fire Company #1. Longwood Chief A.J. McCarthy agrees with the concept but voiced some concerns to the board.

“I see this as a good thing and a bad thing altogether,” McCarthy said, citing the anticipation of growing pains during the first year of the project as a possible negative. He noted that he had submitted questions about the commission that have not been answered yet.

“There is no final answer on questions until there is a consortium that has the authority to give answers to your questions,” Stevens said.

McCarthy replied that he was concerned about a vote on a legal document without questions being answered, but Stevens said that it is a living document and can be changed. He added that timing is an issue, because all of the municipalities involved have to have at least drafts of their budgets in place by October.

“I think that for some people involved, the concern was ‘how can I get this for the cheapest instead of for the safety of the residents,’” McCarthy said.

Supervisor Whitney Hoffman replied that the township takes the safety of its residents and EMS providers seriously.

“I think the biggest concern is that you guys have proper funding and support,” she said.

Chief Chris Plumley from Kennett Fire Company addressed the board, as well.

“One of the biggest concerns that we have is that financial commitments will have an impact on operations,” he said, noting that he wasn’t “thrilled” that the fire companies don’t have a vote on the commission, and that he was concerned about any unexpected personnel changes.

Stevens assured both chiefs that their companies would have input on the process.

“We’re naming to the consortium the people that are acting for us,” Stevens said. “However, we wanted you to be actively participating, that’s why all of the fire companies and EMS providers are represented on the board.”

In response to Plumley’s concern about commission personnel, Stevens said, “It’s my expectation that the people that would serve would not be doing this in a superficial fashion.”

Kennett Fire Company office manager Gina Puoci asked, “If we have capital projects in the works at this time, what do we do?” She added that companies can’t wait until January for a response from the commission. Stevens replied that they would need to wait for feedback from the consortium, but that a fully scheduled capital improvement program would be put in place as quickly as possible.

“There will be a schedule for long-term investment and commitment,” he said.

Speaking about how funding will be allocated by the commission, Hoffman said, “You get want you need, but not always what you want. As long as everyone acts like adults, we’re cool.”

She added that the whole planning process is a leap of faith for the service providers and townships who will be involved.

Township Manager Lisa Moore reassured both company chiefs that the commission is not looking to tell anyone how to manage their funds.

“It’s not an aspect of competition,” Stevens noted. “Instead of a small fiefdom, in which there are three different groups working, we’re looking at a regional area to see what the needs are.”

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