Lawrence County 911 Board Holds Volunteer Fire Departments and Ambulance to different standards?
LAWRENCE COUNTY - JULY 7, 2022 - The Lawrence County 911 board held its regular meeting Thursday morning with Darin Kinser Fire Chief, Pleasant Run Township Volunteer updating the board on the negations between Pleasant Run Township Trustee Michael Nicholson, and advisory board members.
Pleasant Run Township Volunteer Fire Department responds to assist family trapped in flood waters recently
The department continues to improve staffing with both firefighters and emergency medical responders to respond to medical emergencies. A total of 7 members are currently on the department's roster.
However, June 11, 2022, the department was removed from being dispatched to emergencies within the township. The fire department was still under current contract provide fire protection to Pleasant Run Township.
Kinser asked a three-part question to the 911 board which one who made the decision to stop the fire department from being dispatched? Second question why was not the fire department itself notified of being removed? Why was not a phone call given to the chief or its board? Thirdly, why was not the public notified of those changes being a public board?
According to Valarie Luchuaer she had a meeting on the Friday, at Shawswick Township Volunteer Fire Department was signing a new contract with Pleasant Run Township officials. The Shawswick Fire Chief Bobby Brown was having a meeting with Pleasant Run Township Trustee Michael Nicholson and Luchuaer's assumption they were signing a new contract.
Later Friday afternoon Pleasant Run Township Trustee Michael Nicholson via a text and informed Luchuaer there was no longer a fire contract with Pleasant Run Township Volunteer Fire Department. Nicholson informed her they would be contracting fire protection with Marshall and Shawswick Township Volunteer Fire Departments.
The copy of the text was sent to the Chief dispatcher at the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department Amy Trueblood of the developments.
EMA director was concerned about sending out an independent fire department that was not tied to a township trustee, with her thinking about the issues with the Monroe County Indian Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department that no longer had a written contract with their township and liability issues surrounding that.
During the meeting Valarie apologized to Kinser stating it was a miscommunication on her part.
On the following Monday Sheriff Mike Branham, stated he got a copy of the contract that stated Pleasant Run VFD contract was still valid by the Pleasant Run Township Trustee, but the Sheriff Branham and EMA Director Luchuaer was under the assumption the contract was nullified by the township officials.
According to Sheriff Branham it was a lack of communication that led to the fire departments removal from being dispatched. Sheriff Branham has since asked for proper contract between all the various fire departments. The sheriff has asked all township trustees to give them 24-hour advance notice of any changes to fire contracts with other departments.
Most of all Lawrence County volunteer fire departments are private non-profit organizations who contract their services in their respective townships.
Private fire departments exist all over the state especially with industrial complexes throughout the state that include auto companies and steel mills who have both fire and emergency medical teams. Those fire departments also have mutual aid agreements with fire departments outside those industrial complexes.
In a general rule the township trustee has no legal authority to remove any fire department from the dispatch center. They only have the right to enter into contract agreements with other surrounding fire departments if they so desire.
Kinser asked for the copy of the contract from Sheriff Mike Branham with Shawswick and Marshall to which Branham refused. The township board has asked through a Freedom of Information Act of all minutes and contracts from May to July between the township officials. So far, no additional fire contracts have been provided to the fire department. At this time three fire departments are still being dispatched to cover all fire department and emergency medical calls.
The Indiana Public Access Laws state that both the Township Board and Lawrence County 911 Board must give the public ten days' notice of any meetings. The Lawrence County 911 Board did not make the decision to eliminate the fire department from the dispatch center but was done unilaterally by the township trustee and Lawrence County Sheriff Mike Branham and chief dispatcher of the Lawrence County Central dispatch.
NO AMBULANCE SERVICES HAVE CONTRACT TO PROVIDE EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE TO LAWRENCE COUNTY RESIDENTS
Using the same standards to be holding the 10 volunteer fire departments accountable which all have legal contracts, the county's two ambulance providers do not have any legal contracts with Lawrence County as required by Indiana State Law.
Ambulance coverage for Lawrence County has reached a critical stage
Both Indiana University Lifeline Ambulance Service and Seals Ambulance only have contracts with their respective hospitals; IU Health Bedford and Seals with ( St. Vincent Dunn Hospital).
There is no legal obligation for them to provide 911 service to the county.
The lack of ambulance coverage has left long response times to emergency calls to heart attacks, vehicle accidents, and another critical emergency. This the response times have been more than 40-minute response times from out of county ambulances to respond.
Lawrence County Zephyr asked the 911 board what are the legal requirements for a ambulance service to remain on the 911 dispatch.
All ambulances must have AVL ( Auto locator)
Must approach the 911 board to be put on the dispatch rotation
Radios that operate on our system
Must adapt the EMS protocols which are being updated at this time
There is nothing requiring either ambulance service for them to provide ambulance coverage to Lawrence County residents.
Lawrence County Zephyr asked why the 911 board are requiring the fire departments to hold contracts and obligations when they are independent organization 501 c organizations like the two ambulance services that are operating as businesses in the county.
The 911 board was asked whether they are going to start looking at this because the problem of lack of ambulance coverage has existed for at least eight years and there is no movement in addressing this issue. The residents of Lawrence County are the one that are at substantial risk to their lives because of inaction on the county's elected leadership.
" We understand and we agree, and the sheriff and I have fought this issue numerous times. The Lawrence County Commissioners are the only legal party that can act on this issue," said Luchuaer.
Lawrence County Commissioner Dustin Gabhart who is assigned to the 911 board was not in attendance at the meeting to address the issue.
According to Sheriff Mike Branham with the upcoming Shawswick Fire Territory the territory adding ambulance to the county ambulance system, there probably will be no significant changes until they are operating. The affect on the taxing units when the territory to fund ambulance service may be affected by the new service.
According to Luchuaer, The commissioners are not the only ones that will be a factor in providing an ambulance contract, but the county council must also provide the funding for a contracted ambulance service.
IU Lifeline has ambulances in Brown, Lawrence, Orange, and Monroe Counties with ambulance contracts in Brown and Orange Counties but no 911 contracts in Lawrence or Monroe Counties.
The ambulance issue was brough up by Mike Hawkins Mayoral candidate about the City of Bedford starting its own dedicated ambulance service like in Rushville that is now generating revenue for that city.