(c)2022 The Dominion Post (Morgantown, W.Va.)
MORGANTOWN — Star City’s dedicated ambulance coverage has become the latest casualty of the funding crisis impacting emergency services across West Virginia and the country.
Joe Klass, a paramedic, volunteer firefighter and member of the Star City Volunteer Fire Department Board of Trustees, told the Monongalia County Commission on Wednesday that SCVFD’s ambulance service was recently forced to cease operations due to financial constraints.
“To give an idea of what the potential impact of that could be, in 2021 we ran about 3,340 EMS calls — 679 of them were 911, the rest were inter-facility and general medical transports,” Klass said.
Mon EMS Executive Director Forest Weyen said the citizens of Star City will continue to have 911 coverage.
“We had plans in place already to back up Star City for their immediate area,” Weyen said. “Their emergency services are secure.”
Klass noted the fate of Star City’s EMS service is right in line with what’s happening to many of the smaller providers. He said that as the smaller operations fold, larger agencies are forced to spread their coverage to meet the need.
“The way EMS is headed from a trajectory standpoint is not great,” he said. “Every time this happens, it does create a little bit of a vacuum. It’s a cycle where as they shut down, the EMS agencies that are still there have to do more and more with less and less.”
To that end, the commission approved $130,000 for Mon EMS, backing up a previous verbal agreement that the county would pony up funds this fiscal year to help the agency provide pay increases.
The commission included $1 million for the agency as part of its upcoming 2022-23 budget.
“We’re lucky to have the services we do. We’re the envy of the state, but we still could make it stronger and plan for the future,” Commissioner Sean Sikora said.
“We’ve acknowledged that we’re a partner and are going to be a partner. We’re doing that with funding for this year and with the approval of our budget, we put $1 million in funding for next year to, again, start righting this ship and addressing the services in this county as needed.”
In addition to county funding, Mon EMS intends to take its request directly to the voters. Weyen said the agency will likely have details of its proposed excess levy to the commission sometime around June, with the goal of having it appear on the ballot in November.
In other news from Wednesday’s meeting, the commission granted a pair of funding requests out of its $25,000 allocation for community events using the Monongalia County Ballpark.
The first, for $7,500, will be used to support a weekend of high school baseball known as the Mon County Baseball Classic. The annual event will be held April 22-23.
The commission also approved a $3,000 allocation for the West Virginia Black Bears’ Easter Egg Hunt at the park, which was held Tuesday.