Dozens urge township to address EMS issue

Residents say making changes to EMS could delay emergency response times, endangering citizens.

Potential changes to EMS services in Elk Rapids has not been on the township's meeting agenda for months, but that is not stopping residents from voicing their concerns.

More than 80 people packed into the Government Center Tuesday night to let their leaders know where they stand when it comes to maintaining EMS services.

The community faces a budget deficit and is looking for answers. Back in September, township board officials voted to raise the millage one full mil, generating around $200,000. But that is not enough. Some residents say they're willing to chip in more for their safety.

â??We had a petition drive a couple months ago,â?? said Chuch Thiel, a village resident. â??That showed the citizens were willing to increase the millage if necessary to keep it local. It was very successful.â??

Many have personal reasons for wanting things to stay the same.

â??Four years ago, my husband died and I called the ambulance,â?? said Ina Chobat, a village resident. â??They were there within three minutes. I feel it's very important.â??

Bringing in an outside company to manage emergency medical services could delay that response, something many people feel is a dangerous move.

â??They've been here for 50 years. We like them. They do a good job and they know the area. We want to keep them,â?? said Thiel.

Township leaders said they understand that privatizing EMS is a big deal. Elk Rapids Township Supervisor Bill White said the township spends a lot of money on EMS and they are considering options to help balance the budget.

Some people have concerns, and say studying other options isn't necessarily a bad thing.

â??Sure, I'd like to see it,â?? said Emile Sabty, a village resident. â??I'm a senior and I'd like to have the good service, but you have to be able to afford it and people can use it. You can't just say I want to keep it at any price. That's not right. Even though you hate to see it go. I'm sure they'll find a good answer.â??

Even though the issue has not been on the agenda, dozens have made the effort to keep the issue alive.

â??If we're here, they'll know we're here. And they know why we're here,â?? said Chobat.

â??It's a good thing that people come out to voice their concerns. And we listen,â?? said White.

Leaders said they are not done researching options, so there aren't any results to present. When there are, they will be discussed in an open meeting, but according to White, â??It isn't to that point yet.â??

The Elk Rapids township supervisor said there is no time table yet for any permanent decisions.