COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Fabius Township Trustee Judy Holman comments on the Three Rivera Ambulance contract proposal during Wednesday’s Fabius Township Board meeting.

Fabius board tables TR ambulance contract

Board members question city’s management of ambulance money; board to hold work session to discuss further

FABIUS TWP. — Some of Fabius Township’s board members said they have little trust in the City of Three Rivers with regards to how it manages its ambulance funds.

Those prevailing sentiments delayed a vote by the Fabius Township board Wednesday on a new ambulance contract between four local townships, including Fabius, and the city, with the board subsequently scheduling a public work session slated for Tuesday, Aug. 30 at 10 a.m. at the Fabius Township Hall to discuss different issues regarding the potential contract.

The proposed contract was made by members of a committee from each of the four townships surrounding Three Rivers: Lockport, Fabius, Park, and Flowerfield, and involves them and the city. According to the contract details, the townships’ per capita payment would go up by $2.21 per capita – for Fabius, that would mean an increase from $16.05 per capita to $18.26 per capita, which comes out to roughly a $7,317.31 payment. The per capita increase is a one-time increase, according to Township Supervisor Ken Linn, and would be reviewed in negotiations next year.

Linn said the overall contract proposal would split around $22,000 between the townships, with around $42,000 of the contract being paid by the city. This was a change from the original contract ask from the city, which would’ve had each township pay $15,000 each, with the city putting in $20,000.

“All of the townships have frowned on the original ask, and we were looking at a more middle-of-the-road compromise,” Linn said. “We had taken the city’s request and divided it up and put 65 percent of it back on them. This was an idea we brainstormed.”

Both Lockport Township and Park Township boards approved the proposed contract during their meetings Monday and Wednesday respectively. According to contract details, Lockport would pay $8,241.09, Park would pay $5,297.37, and Flowerfield would pay $1,754.74. The city has not discussed the proposed contract as of yet.

However, some board members, including Trustee Judy Holman, had trepidation with the contract, the way the city has approached negotiations, and how the city has handled ambulance finances in the past few years.

“I have a problem with this whole thing. I have a problem with the way they approached it; they wanted $15,000 so they can raise the salary of their ambulance people. I have a real problem with that even if [the payment] comes down,” Holman said. “We have a fire department; if we have extra money to give to the city so their people can get a raise, and our firemen read about it in the newspaper, they’ll be ticked off, and I wouldn’t blame them. It wouldn’t be fair to them.”

Holman also opined that the city has “done some dirty dealings” with the township in the past, referenced the comments former Three Rivers Fire Chief Dan Tomlinson made at a June city commission meeting regarding the fire and ambulance department’s finances, and questioned the city’s management of money from the ambulance budget.

“It shows they’re taking money away from the ambulance and putting it into something else. I have a problem with that,” Holman said. “I understand the need for readiness, because we’re ready at a moment’s notice, but we don’t give money to our fire department and say, ‘oh by the way, we need money back from you for overhead.’ That is not right. I want to see it in writing, because frankly, at this point, I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them. I want to see their justification in writing for coming to us and asking for anything else.”

Linn said Holman made “good points” regarding her grievances with the city’s operations, especially her point regarding the city utilizing part of the ambulance budget for overhead. According to financial statements from the city, in 2021, $205,491 of the ambulance’s enterprise fund revenue was designated as “Central Services Overhead.”

However, Linn mentioned that if the township leaves the Three Rivers ambulance service, they would get into private services such as Beacon Health or LifeCare, which he says has a “profit motive.”

“[The city is] taking 11.3 percent of their budget for the ambulance, and yes, that’s going to city services. That’s absolutely true,” Linn said. “My point is any private carrier, whether it’s Beacon or LifeCare, they not only have a profit motive, they also have overhead too. So, they’re doing the same thing. When you compare apples to apples, even though the city’s a nonprofit entity, I don’t think any private carrier is going to have a lower margin.”

Township Clerk Carol Wilkins said the city should have done a presentation to the township about why they need more money, or at the very least an annual report from the ambulance service. She added the township should have a work session to discuss the issues further, with Holman adding that she wants to see additional guests in attendance for the work session as well, such as Tomlinson and Pat Burke, who she mentioned earlier in the meeting took a look at the city’s financials and audit reports and found what Wilkins called “discrepancies.”

Linn said he and Lockport Township Trustee Rick Daniels previously talked with Tomlinson, who Linn said agreed to come talk to them if need be. He also said he could potentially invite Three Rivers Fire Chief Paul Schoon to their next regular board meeting to give an annual report, or get an annual report from him in lieu of his presence.

Holman said the further discussion at a work session is the township “doing its due diligence” before agreeing to something with the city.

“We don’t just hand over $15,000 or $7,000, we just don’t do that without proof of why they’re asking this,” Holman said.

“Especially with what has been going on down at that department,” Wilkins added.

In conclusion, when it comes to what he called “creative accounting” with the ambulance fund’s money, Linn said the “victim” of that was Three Rivers taxpayers, not the township.

“It all goes back to how their ambulance millage is written, and Dan will tell you that,” Linn said.

In other business…

  • In her report from the Fabius-Park Fire Department board, Holman reported that a replacement fire truck for the department would be delivered in mid-September.
  • The board tabled a vote on the articles of incorporation for the River Country Recreation Authority, in order to review it with the township’s attorney before voting.
  • Wilkins told the board that due to the increase in absentee ballots since 2018, the township is looking to purchase a new ballot tabulator. She said there wouldn’t be one available until January, but said one could potentially cost around $5,000.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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