Forest EMS Authority drops $115 fee

At a special meeting Thursday at the Jenks Township building in Marienville, newly appointed Forest EMS Authority board member Chuck Gilbert said the authority was going to cease collecting a required $115 assessment fee and would return payments that had been sent.

“We are going to step back and reevaluate things,” said Gilbert, of Farmington Township, who was appointed to the authority after Matt Sherbine resigned from both the authority board and as Farmington supervisor in early February.

“We’re not going to give up. We believe we need an ambulance in our community. We have to find out a way to find out how to fund it that is fair to everybody.”

The authority was not able to hold a regular meeting because it lacked a quorum. Since the last meeting, Chairman Ed Stoner and the authority secretary resigned.

Moreover, authority member Tom Zimmerman, who is a Howe Township supervisor, announced Howe, located north of Jenks Township in Forest County, is in negotiations with EmergyCare, of Kane, for EMS services. If Howe were to enter into an agreement with EmergyCare, it would likely leave the Forest EMS Authority.

A withdrawal by Howe would leave only Jenks and the eastern portion of Green Township, also in Forest County, and Farmington in Clarion County as the only remaining townships in the authority. They are three of five members that have been with the authority since it was formed. The others are Howe and Barnett townships, both in Forest County.

Gilbert, who is a Farmington supervisor, doesn’t believe the authority, as it is currently constructed, is the best way to go for the future. He said everyone who paid a fee must have their money returned and for the authority to be dissolved.

He told the Clarion News that what is needed is a steering committee of citizens, supervisors, firefighters, campers and experts in order to move forward “and fix this.”

During the information session, Farmington resident Tim Benzo, in asking Gilbert if the authority would be dissolved, said, “So you are saying the Forest EMS is done for now?”

Gilbert’s reply to Benzo — who had started a petition in Farmington for that community to withdraw from the authority — was “I’m not saying it is going away, because that has to be voted on.

“We have to make a decision on how we are going to restructure and I don’t know. Is it going to continue to be an authority or become something else? It’s way too early to answer that. But we are stopping in our tracks, backing up and we’re going to regroup.”

The authority was officially formed in May but didn’t become a hot-button issue until the first bills were received by property owners. The EMS fee was determined through property assessments.

Later in the meeting, Benzo claimed the authority could face legal ramifications because it did not follow the proper procedures when created, such as filing articles of incorporation, and that he contacted the state about the matter.

“If anybody here in any of these townships gets an attorney and goes after you guys, they absolutely can because what happened was absolutely illegal,” Benzo said. “No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Gilbert said he would have to discuss the matter with the authority’s solicitor.

The Forest EMS Authority will hold its next meeting at 5 p.m. March 7 at the Farmington Township Social Hall in Leeper.