Fire Chief Bill
Arney reported at the Burns Harbor Town Council meeting last night that the
Town is poised to form an agreement for ambulance service with Porter
Regional Hospital similar to the one it is ending with Superior Ambulance
proposed a drastic change in its contract to provide ambulance service to
Burns Harbor, the Town has decided to let its contract with Superior end on
July 16 at 8 a.m. and seek a contract with Porter Regional Hospital instead.
Arney emphasized that contracting with Porter Regional is not the same as
joining in the County’s ambulance contract with Porter Regional.
In the previous
agreement with Superior, the Town paid no cash cost for ambulance
service--rather it paid to house Superior staff, paid for the ambulance and
fuel, and allowed Superior to capture all the revenue generated from calls.
Arney said contracting with Superior became unsustainable when they asked to
begin collecting a fee of $25,000 per month on top of capturing the first
$150,000 in revenue from calls and splitting the remainder with the Town
50-50. Arney previously told the Chesterton Tribune it was not likely
the shared revenue would offset the cost of service much, based on
Superior’s annual report, which stated that they had collected $98,000 in
the first half of 2018.
Arney and Town
Council Vice-President Eric Hull said at previous Town Council meetings that
contracting with the County caused slow response times--sometimes up to 45
minutes for a call at ArcelorMittal--when the Town previously had such an
agreement. Arney said those high response times were due to Burns Harbor
being so far out of the regular coverage area for Porter Regional and their
services being split with the rest of the County. He hopes Porter Regional
will be open to housing staff in Town and using the ambulance the Town owns
in an agreement similar to the one with Superior to keep response times low.
All that would be required is adding additional housing for the new staff.
At its meeting
right before the Town Council meeting, the Redevelopment Commission approved
up to $200,000 to cover that expense and roof repair to the existing
structure, RDC President and Town Council member Kevin Tracy reported.
Arney said a gap in
coverage is most likely unavoidable as he works out the finer details of the
agreement with Porter Regional. In the meantime, the County’s agreement with
Porter Regional will cover the Town temporarily. Arney said they have agreed
to stage a rig closer to Town during that time. There is also mutual aid to
be had from surrounding Towns.
engineer for the Burns Harbor Fire Department, asked from the audience how
much of a gap residents should expect and asked what the Town can to bridge
the gap. Council President Ray Poparad said the Council is doing the best it
can, but private entities and local governments don’t move at the same pace.
The soonest the Council could approve a new contract would be the next Town
Council meeting on August 8, or a few days after it receives word from
Porter Regional, as the Town would have to give 48 hours’ notice to the
public and the press to hold a special meeting.
“I really think
that we need to sharpen our pencils so we’re not doing this every year and
having a gap in coverage every year,” Macchiarella said. “I think we’ve
evolved enough as a town where we need to quit messing around with this and
sign a three or five-year contract.”
The Council members
said they would be receptive to a longer contract and they plan to make sure
the gap in coverage is as short as possible.
As such, the
Council approved Arney to go out for bids on the construction for the staff
housing. “Let’s see how this shakes out when they see that we’re committed
to the addition,” Poparad said.
Hull and Town
Attorney Clay Patton agreed the gap in service will be less than a month and
could be as little as two weeks if everything falls into place. As soon as
the Town settles on a contract, Patton will review it, and the Council will
have a special meeting to approve it.
business, Arney recognized three members of the BHFD by announcing changes
in rank at the meeting. Ryan Nowacki was promoted from Lieutenant to
Captain. Shelby Sharpless and Kaitlyn Dick were promoted from Firefighters
Arney took a moment
at the end of the meeting to give an update on a near-drowning incident the
BHFD responded to on June 30. “We had a drowning victim we saved by quick
response,” he said. “They did keep him sedated for a while, but he’s now
Arney also said the
BHFD was commended by the University of Chicago hospital for their quick
response to a patient who was sprayed with acid. Arney said the man could
have lost his sight but is instead expected to recover.
Hull and Arney
agreed these are examples of why a fast response is so important.