Members of the Milford Town Council, including Bob Cockburn, didn’t hold back Monday night as they took up discussion about a letter the town received recently from Multi-Township Emergency Medical Service.
Much as council members Cockburn, Dan Cochran and Doug Ruch suspected when they debated signing a 2012 contract with MTEMS earlier this year, MTEMS is requesting Milford and Van Buren Township both pay a large increase in subsidies in 2013. Milford has already invested almost $9,000 in improvements to its EMS quarters.
Milford Town Clerk Joellen Free said Milford currently pays an annual subsidy of $18,000 while Van Buren Township pays $22,600 and Jefferson Township pays $7,921. MTEMS information, however, reflects a subsidy of $33,800 being paid by the township.
MTEMS is requesting a subsidy of $73,307.13 from the town in 2013 – a 307 percent increase.
Adding insult to injury, Milford Town Council members mistakenly understood the letter as requesting a $73,307.13 increase from all three entities combined. M-TEMS Director of Clinical Management Mark Pepple said Tuesday.
In a June 22 letter addressed to the town, MTEMS Director of Operations Scott Sigerfoos said the ambulance services’ board of directors is “ … working diligently to control expenses and provide services” without mandating any increase. The organization has decreased payroll expenses by eliminating several full-time positions, decreasing yearly cost of living raises, eliminating eight hours of ambulance service in Warsaw, and it has employed other cost-savings measures as well.
Rising fuel costs, health insurance costs, worker’s compensation and capital expenses are challenging the organization, the letter noted. As a result, MTEMS directors chose to inaugurate a new subsidy model based on the number of runs to entities in their territories. The new model takes into effect whether or not an ambulance is required to be housed locally, as is the case in Milford.
Van Buren Township’s new subsidy request is $54,221 and Jefferson Township’s is unchanged.
Ruch and Cochran both pointed out that the increase comes despite the fact that the town also provides housing for the service, and spent $9,000 in improvements to the facility based on encouragement from MTEMS. A new heating and air conditioning unit, a window and a door were installed, along with a pump to correct a drainage problem.
“Those have to be part of our contribution to them,” Cockburn said.
“I agree,” Cochran concurred, and added sarcastically, “but they don’t have to accept it because they don’t have the intention to stay here.”
Cockburn’s retort was no less frustration, “This is blackmail, I’m going to call it what it is.”
The council has already submitted its proposed 2013 budget, which includes $20,000 for the MTEMS agreement. Left over from the 2012 agreement is an additional $2,000, which the council said it will throw in – bringing its total counter offer to $22,000.
In a separate matter during the meeting, Milford Town Marshal Rich Miotto relayed a complaint and added his own concerns about situations that are occurring at Waubee Lake.
Miotto has received complaints from a Nelson Drive homeowner that swimmers are crossing the corner of the lake late in the evening and jumping off of a private, anchored raft. Miotto said the homeowner claims to have rescued two such swimmers, including a young girl who could not make it back to shore.
“To be honest, I’m really upset with what goes on out there anyway at the beach,” Miotto said. “We’ve arrested, since the fourth, seven people – two of them just 20 minutes ago. One of them battered our lifeguard.” Fourteen people were ejected from the park during the same period.
Drinking, smoking, swearing and people using the swimming area late at night are other problems that both the police department and, recently, Cockburn have dealt with.
“This is my feeling: I’d close it down and leave it open for Milford residents only,” Miotto said. Right now you’ve got people coming from as far away as Gary and North Manchester. One of the four arrested on the fourth just got out of jail in Chicago and has a criminal record.”
A sign posted at the beach says that Waubee park closes at dusk. To combat the problem of swimmers remaining in the water and outside of the ropes after dark, Ruch asked Miotto to increase patrols at the park as the manpower to do so is available. Cockburn also encouraged Miotto to make arrests, when warranted, in order to send a message to others. Council members also agreed to inquire about what part-time law enforcement the town could hire without having to go to the expense of sending someone to the police academy.
For a complete report of Milford’s Monday night town council meeting, see this week’s issue of The Mail-Journal.