Council OKs billing to benefit Belpre’s fire dept.

BELPRE – Belpre City Council took the final step and passed the last reading of legislation to allow changes to funding for the fire department to take place in order for emergency medical technicians to remain on the payroll.

The third and final reading of a resolution was passed Monday to allow the mayor and safety-service director to execute a contract naming the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department as the medical provider to receive 70 percent of the funds collected by third party billing company Medical Claims Assistance while the city will receive 30 percent.

Council also passed the last reading of an ordinance to repeal section II of the ordinance regarding the distribution of the funds from MCA to allow the fire department to continue operating with emergency medical technicians during the day.

During the Oct. 14 council meeting, finance and audit chair Susan Abdella and committee member Larry Martin asked to hold the final readings of these two pieces of legislation in order to make sure the amount of funding works for the city and the fire department.

“I didn’t ask to table this to cause problems,” Martin told council. “We just wanted to get some numbers together and see if things would work.

“I talked to the chief and he seems happy with the numbers and that makes me happy to pass (the legislation),” he said.

For several months council has been discussing the change to the contract with MCA in order for the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department to maintain EMT services.

The original 2009 contract had the money split with 20 percent going to the fire department to help pay for new vehicles and 80 percent into the city’s general fund.

Of the city’s cut, 20 percent will be used for fire department expenses, including payments on the new emergency squad vehicle, while the remaining 10 percent will be set aside for future purchases for new fire department vehicles or firefighters. The 70 percent the fire department will receive will pay the EMTs and related costs.

The change was suggested by Mayor Mike Lorentz and Safety-Service Director Dave Ferguson in September following more than a month of discussions.

In early July, representatives of the fire department announced to city council that they no longer had the funds to keep the two full-time and two part-time EMTs.

The legislation needed to be passed on Monday because the fire department had enough funds to keep the department running with EMTs until Nov. 1, representatives told council.

The legislation regarding this fire department funding includes an emergency clause, which means once council President Will Neff and Lorentz sign it, it becomes binding.

Fire Chief Eric Sinnett, who is also 3rd Ward councilman, abstained from voting because of a conflict of interest.

In other business

Council suspended the rules and passed the second and third readings of a resolution authorizing the mayor and safety-service director to execute agreements with 601 Plaza LLC for a new fire station on Farson Street and an exchange of real estate.

The new fire station is needed as the current Farson Street building will be torn down as part of the expansion of the Marietta Memorial Health Systems facilities at Health Bridge and widening of the street.

Belpre City Law Director Tom Webster said the negotiations on the resolution to authorize the mayor and safety-service director to execute agreements for a new fire station on Farson Street were “lengthy.”

“In order to facilitate the new hospital project, we also need to do this,” Webster said.

Sinnett said he has seen the plans for the new station and he believes it will serve the department well.

The fire department will be able to use the old station until the new one is completed, which is expected to be May 1, 2014.

Lorentz swore in two new captains – Steve Rogers and Chris Guile – and five lieutenants – Chad Sinnett, Greg Price, Eric Sinnett II, Brian Harpold and Pat Taylor – to the fire department during the council meeting.

Fred Holmes with Volunteer Energy will be at the city building beginning at 10 a.m. today to answer questions regarding the natural gas aggregation program.

Last August, the city’s electric aggregation program began as provided by DPL Energy Resources and organized by Volunteer Energy, which is the city’s partner for the two energy-savings programs.

Although DPL Energy Resources offers the electric program to the city through Volunteer Energy, there is no third party with the natural gas, as Volunteer Energy is the supplier of that resource.

The rate for the natural gas will be the New York Mercantile Exchange price plus 60 cents per 1,000 cubic foot.

Anyone having questions regarding the natural gas aggregation can contact the city building or come talk to Holmes while he is available today, Ferguson said.