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Town rallies to keep ambulance service running

| Tuesday, April 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Community members are rallying to keep Sewickley Township Community Ambulance Service in Herminie as the designated service provider for the township.

Ambulance station manager Jonathan Jobe said “several hundred” signatures have been gathered since township supervisors voted April 4 to vacate the township-owned property May 31.

“It's humbling, it really is,” Jobe said about the community support. “That's been the nice thing — there's definitely a sense of pride.”

Supporters have been asked to attend the supervisors' meeting Wednesday, Jobe said.

In a 2-1 vote on April 4, supervisors approved a measure to designate Jeannette EMS Inc. as the primary responder for the township.

On Monday, supervisors and the ambulance service met privately to discuss an ongoing, 99-year lease the service signed with the township a little more than 10 years ago.

Township Supervisor Joe Kerber said he will request that the ambulance service be given six additional months to secure its financial footing and remain as the township's designated provider.

“I think we're backing ourselves into a corner that there's no escape from,” Kerber said.

Officials from Jeannette met with supervisors on April 5 to discuss that pending agreement.

Jeannette EMS executive director Michael Cafasso said the organization, which was contacted by supervisors, plans to provide two ambulances in the township.

“We're not here to get into a battle with anybody,” he said. “We were approached and we saw an opportunity to help a neighbor out.”

Supervisor Alan Fossi said he never questioned the level of service provided by the Sewickley Township ambulance service, but he simply was not confident of the group's financial situation.

“Everybody's looking for some motive other than that, and it's plain and simple,” he said.

In February, the township loaned $3,000 to the Sewickley service to cover fuel expenses and an additional $5,000 to cover its payroll.

Jobe said the financial situation has improved by forming a “loose partnership” with the Rostraver/West Newton Emergency Services.

“We co-mingled our boards so the two companies can work cohesively,” he said.

At the April 4 meeting, Supervisor Wanda Layman repeatedly asked for paperwork detailing the agreement.

Jobe said Monday that agreements have been drawn up to handle billing, employment and other services such as maintenance.

“Every cross-utilized resource between the two companies — there's paper on it,” he said.

The Sewickley Township ambulance service still has a service agreement with Madison Borough and can still operate with non-emergency transports and contracts with insurance providers, he said.

“We're still here and we're going to be here,” Jobe said. “Where we're going to be remains to be seen.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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