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Pennsylvania Twp. Cuts Ambulance Funding

Hempfield will not subsidize the township's ambulance service in 2011. Township Manager Kurt Ferguson notified Rescue 14 this month that Hempfield will stop paying for gasoline and tires for ambulances, although supervisors will pay liability insurance for the two ambulances that Rescue 14 uses.

The township also will donate $500 to the 42-year-old organization that services about 8,000 residents in the western end of Hempfield, Adamsburg and Penn. Other sections of the township are covered by Mutual Aid and the Jeannette Ambulance Service.

Don Thoma, operations manager for Rescue 14, said he was surprised by the decision, but he declined further comment until the service's board of directors can meet with supervisors.

"I'm just caught off guard," Thoma said. In a Dec. 3 letter to Rescue 14, Ferguson said the board of supervisors decided the township shouldn't provide gas and tires at no charge because the organization bills patients for its services.

Hempfield's subsidy to Rescue 14 amounts to $5,000 to $6,000 a year, he said. The township provides gasoline, tires and a financial contribution to the dozen volunteer fire departments because they provide free service, he said.

"We didn't think it was appropriate to give free gas to somebody billing for services," Ferguson said. "We're not trying to do any damage to the department," he said. "To me, if someone is calling an ambulance ... and they're billing for that service, I don't think it's appropriate for taxpayers to offset that cost up front."

Rescue 14 will have the option of purchasing gasoline from the township at a cost of 30 percent to 35 percent less than at the pump. "We cover a big cost of the insurance on the ambulances, which have a substantial liability," Ferguson said.

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