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Burrell Township supervisors consider ambulance service proposal

| Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 1:39 p.m.

The Burrell Township supervisors have agreed to consider a proposal by New Florence-based Laurel Valley EMS to become a first responder for situations in the township that require emergency medical care. The supervisors have asked that a meeting be set up with neighboring townships to talk over logistics of the proposal.

Gary Miller, Burrell Township's emergency management coordinator, spoke to the supervisors at their Aug. 21 meeting regarding emergency medical services in southern Indiana County and Burrell Township. Miller said he has been dissatisfied with response times in some cases, though he did not cite any specific episodes. Currently, Citizens' Ambulance Service usually provides first response in Burrell Township. Citizens' operates six stations — at Indiana, Blairsville, Plumville, Hillsdale and Clyde-Wheatfield in Indiana County, and at Elderton in Armstrong County.

“After a number of incidents we've had involving fire and EMS, we had started looking at some things,” Miller said.

Miller contacted Scott Poorbaugh, division chief with Laurel Valley EMS, several months ago to see what his EMS service could provide to Burrell Township.

Poorbaugh said he's also opened up discussions with Blacklick and East Wheatfield townships about offering EMS services in those communities.

“Between Blacklick (Township) and Burrell, you're looking at enough people to staff one truck,” Poorbaugh said, noting that a primary and possibly a standby truck could be stored at the fire department. “I could probably, if I got enough townships bolted together over here, put a truck here in the Black Lick/Burrell area.”

Adding another EMS provider to service the area could only be an improvement, according to Miller. In addition to Citizens', responders also could include Lifestat based in Saltsburg and Mutual Aid in Derry.

“We've already spoken to some other townships around you here,” Poorbaugh said. “I'd at least like your input. If you have an interest in it, we can continue towards this. What I've been telling the rest of the townships, if you give me a shot at it, the worst you do is what you have now.

“What I'd like to be is your primary EMS provider. What that means is, I'm the first one out the door. If I can't handle it, it kicks down to your secondary, which is who you have now. So it can only get better — it can't get worse.”

Poorbaugh added that Laurel Valley EMS would honor any current subscriptions to service that residents have with Citizens.'

According to Supervisor Tony Distefano, the township has an agreement through resolution with Citizens,' and it renews automatically without a yearly vote from the supervisors.

“My primary concern would be getting the same or better quality service than what anybody else can provide,” Distefano said. “What our main concern is, how is the service going to get better? Put it down on paper, all the logistics of it.

“The second concern is, you have a population here that's used to having one provider. And anytime anything changes — I don't care what it is — there's a certain amount of resistance or panic. And at the same time, we need to talk about how the individual people are going to be served. I'm open to sitting down and talking.”

Distefano suggested that Laurel Valley EMS plan a meeting with the supervisors of the outlying townships it has already talked with to outline its plan.

“We're certainly open to discussion about getting better service,” Distefano said. “We're not dissatisfied with Citizens,'” though he said the supervisors don't have the response time statistics that have been a cause for concern for Miller. “But the fact that you are suggesting that we talk to them (Laurel Valley EMS) is enough for me.”

“I didn't wake up one morning and decide to invade Burrell Township,” Poorbaugh stated, noting that he was contacted by Miller and asked to put something together. “Laurel Valley (EMS) is so close, I'm very confident that I can put a system in place that will improve what you have currently.”

Both Poorbaugh and Miller emphasized that this idea is in its very beginning stages, and no decisions have been made.

“We're just batting this around,” Poorbaugh said, noting that if the proposal moves forward, a public meeting would be held.

Contacted later, a spokesman said Citizens' had no comment about the discussions in Burrell Township.

Also last week, the supervisors voted to eliminate two seats on the Burrell Township Recreation and Parks Board that were designated for representatives from the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District.

The vote will amend a 1998 ordinance, which states that the township's parks and rec board be comprised of nine Burrell Township residents, seven of them appointed by the supervisors and two by the school board, all serving five-year terms.

According to Distefano, the reason for having the school board's involvement in appointing parks board members was due to the school district's donation of money toward a summer youth program. Since then, the program has been canceled due to budgetary constraints, therefore the two school district appointments are no longer necessary.

“The school board no longer has any financial interest in the park board, which was why they were given the two board seats,” Distefano explained.

A motion was made and carried to eliminate the school district's two appointments, amending the ordinance to provide for seven parks board members, all of whom will be appointmented by the supervisors.

In other business, the supervisors:

• Passed along information from the Indiana County Commissioners regarding new property reassessments, as data collectors have already begun canvassing neighborhoods to take measurements and photos of properties. The county's last assessment took place 45 years ago.

• Appointed Kimberly L. Henry of Black Lick to fill a vacant seat on the Burrell Township Library board of directors. She will finish a three-year term left open by the resignation of Betty Cochran.

• Announced that the annual Burrell Township community picnic will take place 1-5 p.m. Sept. 15 at Burrell Park, featuring food and live music.

• Announced that the township office will be closed Monday for Labor Day.

The next Burrell Township supervisors meeting is set for 7 p.m. Sept. 18.

Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or

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