EXETER TWP, Pa., - The debate continues over EMS service in Exeter Township.
On Monday evening, the township supervisors held their first general meeting since last month, when the board voted to move forward with a new health-based EMS provider. Penn State Life Lion. The move came approximately two years after the township voted to implement its current fire-based EMS service.
The EMS change did not come up at Monday's meeting, but that did not stop several EMS workers from showing up. They said 22 jobs held by dually-trained EMS firefighters are on the line.
"For us, that's kind of a shot in the gut, because we've put so much effort into this department and we believe in this department. Some of us left city departments with a pension to come here to build this department for our residents," said Lt. Chip Szweda.
Members of the recently-formed Exeter Township Professional Fire and EMS Union said they feel the decision had to do with them seeking representation after, they said, attempts to communicate with upper management failed.
Board members said in a statement to 69 News that that claim was false and they added:
"We asked the township manager to explore other EMS options after we learned that the Exeter Township Fire Department cannot continue to provide the current level of EMS services without additional staffing and support, the substantial cost of which the fire department would need the township to absorb. The township supervisors consider it their duty to obtain for township residents the best possible EMS services at the lowest feasible cost."
Mike Leagans, the president of Exeter Township Professional Fire and EMS, said they attempted to talk to upper management about hiring a full-time supervisor to oversee the EMS firefighters instead of volunteer supervisor.
"It comes to the point where, as a career staff, we had enough," said Leagans. "We wanted, we requested, to have one person that had the authority to run our department, have control of the budget, have control of the schedule. We have one access point to get in and we have one access point to get out."
Township supervisors said the decision to hire a full-time EMS supervisor is an internal decision with the fire department.
69 News is still waiting to hear back from the Exeter Township fire chief.
The board said it's working to make sure the EMS coverage "remains continuous and uninterrupted" and added:
"We have the township’s best interest in mind and staying in the current situation would be a poor decision."
Current EMS workers are also worried about losing their jobs.
"That's a lot of stress to take home, and it's a lot of stress to bring into work every day," added Szweda.
In response, the board said: "We also have encouraged Penn State to offer employment to all of the current EMS employees of the Exeter Township Fire Department, and we sincerely hope this happens."
The terms of a final agreement with Penn State Life Lion is expected at the next board meeting on June 26.
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