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Judge Rejects Bid to Toss EMS Millage Suit

GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. -- A Genesee Circuit Court judge Wednesday rejected a request to toss a lawsuit that claims the county is misspending tax dollars meant for emergency services.

Swartz Ambulance Service and Patriot Ambulance Service claim that some of the emergency medical services millage money is being spent to pay paramedics for handling police calls.

"We have a lot of information as to how the EMS millage funds are not being used for EMS purposes," said Scott Fraim, an attorney for the ambulance companies.

Fraim said one issue is that funding for the Genesee County Sheriff's Department's paramedics program is paid, in part, by millage money.

But because paramedics also operate as sheriff's deputies when not responding to medical calls, Fraim said EMS millage money should not be used to pay their entire salaries.

The half-mill tax was renewed in 2006 for 10 years and provides $4 million to $5 million annually for emergency services, including county sheriff's paramedics.

H. William Reising, an attorney for the county, argued that the money is being spent properly and asked Circuit Judge Richard Yuille to throw the case out Wednesday.

How the millage money is spent is decided by the county board as part of its annual budget, Reising said.

Yuille denied Reising's request and allowed the case to move forward, but he threw out the complaint's allegations of fraud during the 2006 millage election.

Yuille also turned down the ambulance companies' request that he void the results of that election and refund taxpayer money.

Reising said he plans to file another motion to dismiss the rest of the suit at a later date.

A separate federal lawsuit that claims the county can't handpick which ambulance services it uses is pending.

Hearing dates have not been set for either case.

Forest Township resident Patricia Milan said she supports the ambulance companies' lawsuit and thinks the county needs to re-evaluate how it is spending EMS millage money.

She is concerned that ambulance companies in the county - which do not receive millage money - are unable to communicate directly with 911 dispatchers via a radio and thinks millage money could be used to upgrade the county's dispatch system to include ambulance companies.

"They are holding back the money," she said. "I'm just so disgusted with government."

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