DELAWARE, Ohio -- When people with a medical emergency call 911, they probably don't care who's paying the paramedic.
But the local governments -- and taxpayers -- who pay for emergency medical services do.
Yesterday, Delaware County officials decided it is time to study how those services are provided and see whether it can be done at a lower cost.
Delaware County commissioners voted 2-1 to apply for a state grant to conduct a study.
It's a potentially divisive issue for the state's fastest-growing county, where townships closer to the Franklin County line are becoming more densely populated while townships in the northern part of Delaware County remain largely rural.
"If we have the opportunity to apply for a grant that will study if the county is delivering a service for the least amount of dollars, then that's what we should do," said board President Dennis Stapleton. "If we don't agree with the study, we are not bound by it."
Stapleton and Commissioner Tommy Thompson voted in favor of the grant application; Commissioner Ken O'Brien, who is vice president of the board, voted against it, saying it could be a waste of money.
Most townships in the southern part of the county have opted, as the population there has grown, to have their own paramedics. In the northern part of the county, though, county government provides emergency-medical services.
It's a distinction that would matter only if the county stopped offering EMS services and northern townships were left without medics.
The county pays for the emergency medical services it provides with sales-tax revenue, largely from sales at Polaris Fashion Place. Townships such as Orange and Genoa pay for emergency medical services through property taxes.
The county's EMS budget for fiscal year 2012 is about $9.9 million.
County Administrator Tim Hansley said he expects the study to cost between $100,000 and $150,000; the county should know this year whether it has been awarded the grant.