CALCUTTA – The Kolkata Volunteer Fire Department’s recent decision to offer an ambulance service drew criticism from the founders of one of the two private ambulance companies serving the community.
Christine and Lee Lerussi, who founded North Star in Glenmoor in 2007, began questioning Fire Chief Dave McCoy and the St Clair community trustees Monday about the fire department’s recent purchase of an ambulance.
Christine Lerussi said she would never enter a burning building and she didn’t feel the fire department should step in to the emergency services. She questioned McCoy about the plans, including whether he planned to offer basic life support transportation services or advanced life support services that would involve a paramedic on board. She also asked how much the Kolkata Fire Department paid for the ambulance they bought, a question he declined to answer.
McCoy said emergency medical services are still in the preparatory phase and are working with a man from the university hospital on those details. Once they get it working, their intention will be to transport community residents when the other emergency services are unavailable. When he said he must not charge the township residents, Christine Lerussi said she believes he must press charges.
Both she and Lee Lerussi questioned using taxpayers’ money to buy an unnecessary ambulance and why, instead of focusing on training more firefighters beyond the 36-hour basic training, they will train an ambulance crew outside of their focus. The fire brigade currently has three people with EMS basic training and a paramedic.
In comparison, Christine Lerussi said her paid emergency medical service has nearly 40 people on the list. Both North Star owners questioned whether the community plans to show preference and make the Kolkata Fire Department’s ambulance service the primary service for the area, a designation North Star currently has.
If so, he said he wanted a chance to compete but wondered if he needed to.
“Why should I compete against my own taxpayer money?” asked Lee Lerussi. “I paid my tax dollars to make them compete with me?”
Christine Lerussi said if fire departments jumped into ambulance service it could destroy private businesses in the area, and asked if they would pick and choose which calls they would take their one ambulance and pick the ones that bring in the most money. She also asked what happens when the ambulance is transporting someone out of town and the fire department is needed.
Christine Lerussi said the fire department has a carry-over balance of $350,000 each year, collects $3.5 million in taxes and continues to seek donations from residents and businesses. She questioned whether trustees shouldn’t include something in their contract with fire departments that requires them to obtain authorization or justification for spending taxpayers’ money.
Trustee Chairman James Sabatini defended the fire departments by explaining that the two fire departments that serve the community provide the trustees with annual audits of how their money is being spent.
Both McCoy and Lerussi provided trustees with sections of the Ohio Revised Code supporting their rights for and against the fire department operating an ambulance.
In other matters:
— Volunteers are being sought for the St. Clair Township Travel and Tourism Bureau’s street cleaning event scheduled for Saturday, April 23 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Participants are asked to meet at the community center behind the police station at 8:45am to pick up free items to help with the cleanup and locations to be cleaned.
– The next meeting of the St. Clair Ward Trustees is scheduled for Monday, April 25 at 4 p.m.