Levy could fill Falls EMS gap

NEWTON FALLS – The joint fire district may ask for a new levy come November to close gaps in their EMS coverage and improve response times. Discussion surrounding the topics was held at the Fire Board’s meeting Tuesday evening.

“I’m looking for a solution to help my residents to meet their needs,” said Kelly Meszaros of Neighborhood Property Management, which runs the Willow Glen retirement complex.

If that means supporting a levy, she offered the board her assistance.

The residents she spoke of at Willow Glen were those who initially sparked the conversation about getting paramedics on shift from 3 to 11 p.m. – a time slot that now is manned by on-call volunteers.

Staffing 24/7 would cost about $240,000 annually, more than the department receives from the current levy and from funds earmarked by the village and township for fire response.

The solution would come in the form of a levy worth somewhere between two and 2.5 mills.

Willow Glen residents became anxious when an elderly woman suffered a stroke in her locked apartment on Feb. 7. Responding emergency personnel were dispatched from autopoint after no volunteers from the local station came to the rescue. They were unable to reach the woman until the assistant chief arrived with a master key to the complex’s Knox Box, about 30 minutes after the first call went out for help.

Fire Chief Richard Bauman said the master key for Knox Boxes are the responsibility of the fire department, and allowing the police to have the master key creates a “shared liability.” Instead, he and Police Chief Gene Fixler discussed possibly having a separate Realtor’s box with a master key to the Willow Glen apartments near the complex’s office for the police to use.

Meszaros said she would have to talk with her corporate management to see if the Realtor’s box could be put in place. Attorney Chip Comstock said the liability still may be high for the police who would have to be certified to administer medical aid if they were to respond on a regular basis to emergency situations according to the auditor of state.

“It’s an unsolvable issue unless you have full time staffing and we can’t afford it,” Squad Commander Kenny Evans said.