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Hearing is set to discuss city’s response

The Warren City Council will hold a public hearing in advance of the October regular meeting to hear resident concerns about the EMS crisis.

While the council had already tabled action on an amended agreement with Pleasant Township after a contentious debate, the attempt to schedule the public hearing sparked more debate, including the suggestion that the city should seek annexation of any township where it is providing EMS services.

“In my opinion, many city residents do not understand where this is headed,” Councilman John Wortman said in seeking the hearing, “and generally this regionalization.”

“I don’t necessarily oppose citizen input,” Councilman Gregory Fraser said. “I’m not sure how a public meeting adds to that.”

“You’re looking out into the future without any knowledge of what’s out there,” Mayor Maurice Cashman said to Wortman.

“I’m going to vote against all” similar agreements, Wortman said. “I think they should all be stopped. I do not believe it is the City of Warren’s responsibility to fix this problem for Warren County.”

Fraser reiterated the city’s need to respond when dispatched and said “if we end up being the only ambulance in the county, we’re going to be the county-wide response system.

“If we act not to try cooperatively,” to “employ the remaining county assets,” Fraser added, “the ambulances, the equipment, the personnel…. Otherwise the city equipment and personnel are going to be spread across the county (and) response times and accessibility to health care are going to be severely diminished.”

“These townships that want the services that are offered in the city, they need to seek annexation by the City of Warren,” Wortman responded. “It’s happened in other counties.”

He said it happened in St. Marys.

“That was 25 years ago,” City Manager Nancy Freenock responded.

She made the revenue argument in slightly different terms.

“The city has 10 mills (to raise) before (we) would have to seek the approval from a county,” she said.

She said she’s not sure the city will be able to afford a “full service fire department” in 10 to 15 years and said that losing out on the change to collaborate now might be lost forever if not taken.

Councilman Paul Giannini said he is “all for agreements” and “all for the townships paying their fare share.

“I’m uncomfortable with having our employees outside of the city.”

“What the expansion program should be,” Fraser said, is hiring more staff to serve outside the city “while maintaining the core services” in the city.

“Our agreement is not putting Warren’s residents first,” Giannini said.

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