Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor in talks with Porter hospital for ambulance service

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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 Service.

After Superior 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.

Wally Macchiarella, 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.

In related 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 to Lieutenants.

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 recovering.”

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.


Posted 7/12/2018





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