Fire departments seeking ARP funds for ambulances
WARREN — Four fire departments in Trumbull County, including Girard, each are asking commissioners for nearly $200,000 from the county’s portion of American Rescue Plan funds to purchase new ambulances to start or improve emergency medical services for their residents.
In addition to Girard, Bazetta, Champion and Braceville townships also are looking to purchase ambulances. The commissioners have given their provisional support for the purchases, but are waiting to make sure the grant requests are within the requirements of the federal funding.
The requests are expected to be sent to and reviewed by the law firm, Baker, Dublikar, Beck, Wiley & Matthews, which examines all of the county’s applications to ensure they meet all of the requirements to receive the ARP money.
Girard Safety Service Director Sal Ponzio and fire Chief James Petruzzi last week asked commissioners to consider providing an estimated $225,822 for the purchase of an ambulance. It will enable the department to provide emergency medical transport to its residents and others.
In the city’s application, Petruzzi argued the addition of a fire department-based ambulance will enable the department to provide emergency transport services to about 9,500 persons, 4,183 households and 258 businesses in the city.
The city has not had its own ambulance from 1967 through 2004.
City-sponsored ambulance services were discontinued because it could not afford to pay for them, according to Petruzzi. So, city residents who require emergency transport use a private ambulance company.
“All of our 13 full-time firefighters are trained paramedics,” Petruzzi said. “Generally, we can get to an emergency within three minutes after receiving calls from Trumbull 911 dispatchers. The private ambulance may take up to an extra 10 minutes to get to the emergency location.
Those extra moments could be a matter of life or death.”
Last year, the city’s fire department responded to 1,470 EMS calls.
However, not all of the calls required firefighters to transport people to area medical facilities. The number of EMS calls increased from 1,110 in 2018 to 1,306 in 2020.
In 2021, there were 1,385 EMS calls and in 2022 the city had 1,441 EMS calls.
LifeTrans, which also serves other communities, including Niles, Weathersfield, Austintown and Boardman, provides ambulance transport for Girard, according to Petruzzi.
Having an ambulance operated by members of the city’s fire department could save money for residents.
“A private EMS company bills insurance companies and obtains out-of-pocket costs from consumers,” Petruzzi said.
Girard residents are paying up to $530,000 per year for a private ambulance service.
The estimated costs for the ambulance will include $146,450 for the vehicle, $63,000 for the Stryker power load and power cot system and $16,392 for graphics, paint, a monitor mount and oxygen mounts.
Petruzzi said his firefighters / paramedics can provide all emergency services, except transporting patients elsewhere for treatment.
“This would be a good long-term investment,” Petruzzi said. “The vehicle can last more than 10 years.”
Ponzio said the city is doing a feasibility survey to determine the need for a city-owned ambulance, which will include costs outside of the purchase of the ambulance such as staffing it.
“We are looking at all aspects of having a service,” Ponzio said.
The city is expected to discuss adding an ambulance service during this month’s council meeting.
Bazetta fire Chief Tom Rink said the township is asking for funds so it can replace a 12-year-old ambulance that has more than 100,000 miles on it. Bazetta has two ambulances that are operated by fire department personnel. The most recent ambulance was purchased — using COVID-19 relief funds — three years ago.
Rink said his department needs two ambulances because of the area it covers.
“We cover Bazetta, Mosquito Lake and its camp area, and Trumbull County Fairgrounds,” Rink said.
Champion fire Chief Tom Dempsey asked the commissioners to provide $155,000 to replace a 2014 ambulance with more than 110,000 miles on it. The actual cost of the vehicle is projected to be $175,000.
“We wanted to show we’re willing to put some of our own money into purchasing it,” Dempsey said.
Champion has three ambulances, seven full-time firefighters and eight part-time firefighters.
Braceville fire Chief Todd Garland is asking for $175,000 to purchase a new ambulance, which will replace a 2009 vehicle.
Garland estimates Braceville will be able to obtain $6,000 in trade-in allowance for the current ambulance. Braceville averages 600 calls per year, with 80% being EMS-related.