OPINION-Failed agenda? City and Township share same playbook
July 2012 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
By: Harold Merritt
Plymouth’s city manager, Paul Sincock, plans to tell all area nursing homes and senior residences in the City, they must call HVA Ambulance for any medical emergencies, starting immediately. Plymouth has an inter-local agreement with Northville City since this January to provide fire and emergency medical services.
Informed sources say Plymouth City is over its budget and can no longer afford to send the Northville ambulances with basic EMT’s to the nursing/senior homes for any medical emergency.
Township Supervisor Richard Reaume had the same plan in March when he closed the Lake Pointe fire station citing the majority of their calls were to Independence Village’s senior center, saying the costs were prohibitive.
Is this Sincock’s way of trying to save what he can on the cost of the City Fire Department at the jeopardy of the residents?
Enter Plymouth’s, case study, fostered by a favored service supplier, and a plan both the City and Plymouth Township officials have tried unsuccessfully to adopt.
The International City/County Management Association (ICMA) is something like a think tank.
ICMA is a consulting service established to provide management consulting support in the area of public safety and hiring guidelines for police and fire recruitment and consolidation.
With common knowledge, most municipalities spend the majority of their budget on the police and fire departments, ICMA focuses on current financial difficulties many local governments are experiencing and proposes alternatives to the so-called traditional delivery system, looking at workload analysis to determine staffing levels, as they say, “based on facts rather than emotion.”
In 2010, after an acrimonious break-up with the Plymouth Township, Plymouth’s City Manager, Paul Sincock sought to find a convenient way out and paid ICMA to create the Emergency Services Review. The City had a joint agreement with Plymouth Township for fire and EMS services since 1995 and contributed $950,000 annually to the Township.
The ICMA put together a consulting team with three individuals: Leonard Matarese, a retired police officer and later deputy sheriff from Miami, Florida; Ken Chelist, a professor who teaches Engineering management at Wayne State University and Jerry Zapolnik, HVA Ambulance Company’s chief operating officer.
In addition to providing an in-depth workload analysis, the ICMA team was able to come up with similar case studies and create a custom report to fit their client’s specifications.
They looked at the Township’s dispatch records, number of runs, types of events and called out their observations based on two main types of statistics, dispatches and workloads.
The final result married the data in a most convenient way, all with the intent to build a case to help Sincock carry out his plan. Therein lies a problem, as ICMA’s livelihood is dependent on pleasing their clients.
Plymouth paid ICMA $70,000 for the study.
In their 136-page review, ICMA described what they felt were “inconsistencies” in the recording of the response times, describing variables and calling out categories like, “call receipt time” and “travel time”.
In their final workload analysis, they strongly advocated the use of mutual aid and paid on-call firefighters as a cost-effective option calling them, “Wranglers.” and suggested, “The City may wish to encourage some of its non-sworn employees be trained as wranglers.”
They also endorsed Northville City’s all volunteer fire department.
Paid on-call firefighters are a cost-effective option to supplement either a limited number of full-time firefighters of a PSD, Northville, a neighbor of Plymouth, provide an excellent example of a long-standing on-call fire department. Except for the chief and a part-time inspector, all other personnel are on call. These individuals respond to both fire and medical emergencies-ICMA
The October 2010 ICMA review also strongly suggested the utilization of a private ambulance transport company, and not surprisingly suggested HVA as the preferred service supplier. Plymouth Township’s Plymouth Community Fire Department was not allowed to transport patients in favor of using Huron Valley Ambulance Company of Ann Arbor. HVA billed the patients and collected the revenue.
Private ambulance transport companies work on narrow margins but can be successful for several reasons. Labor costs are typically much lower…..these companies generate a significant portion of their revenue stream from non-emergency transport…ICMA
In summary we question the value added by having the Plymouth Township Fire Department enter into a business activity that is currently being performed in exemplary fashion by a private company…at no cost to the community-ICMA
Before ICMA could complete their study, Dale Berry, HVA’s President and CEO sent an email to Roger Fraser, Ann Arbor’s city administrator bragging about the Matarese and Chiest presentation of the proposed study to the Plymouth City Commission telling how, “…the traditional fire service model no longer is effective and affordable.”
Berry went on to say, “The elected officials that I talked with after the meeting felt that the public didn’t feel the need [to] attend. They also felt that the public trusted them….As long as the public gets a timely response from someone, that’s all they care about. Doesn’t matter who it is.”
It appears Paul Sincock is now backpedaling and trying to save face and the seniors will now be waiting longer for HVA to arrive, just like they do in Plymouth Township.
Maybe it’s time to re-visit the discarded Plymouth Community Fire Department with full time, fully trained advance life support paramedics right in our own back yard.