By Sue Botos

Rocky River

After several years of providing life support, the city fire division will pull the plug on an aging ambulance.

City Council has begun discussion of legislation authorizing the purchase of a 2016 vehicle from Penn Care Inc. at a cost of $231,182. Ordinance sponsor Michael O’Donnell said the ambulance will replace a 2003 model with 71,000 “hard miles” on the odometer. He added that the measure is expected to receive three full readings. The old vehicle is expected to be worth $10,000 in trade-in value.

“This has been on the radar for some time. It was in the 2015 budget, but was put off until now,” O’Donnell commented at council’s Dec. 14 legislative meeting. It will take five to six months for delivery of the vehicle, he stated.

According to fire Chief Aaron Lenart, the new vehicle would be a welcome addition to the department’s fleet of three ambulances. The lives of the vehicles, he said, are prolonged by a rotation that places one of the units in maintenance each month, leaving two available for service.

Lenart said the new ambulance will already be equipped with an autoloader system. “This allows for the lifting of a patient without any physical lifting (by the ambulance crew),” Lenart said of the device, which helps EMTs load a patient, up to 700 pounds, into the vehicle. A $40,000 grant from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation will be sought to install autoloaders on the other ambulances.

During the Dec. 4 city budget hearing, Lenart reported that EMT runs are 200 calls ahead of last year at this time.

He added that in 2015, the charge per ambulance run was raised by $100. In addition, mileage while transporting patients was increased by $2 per mile, which is covered by insurance carriers. Lenart said the year-end revenue for the department is estimated at $541,033, up by about $80,000 from a projection of $462,000.

“The fire department has never been over $500,000 in revenue before,” he reported.

Lenart also proposed a three-year rotation plan for turnout gear, the safety equipment needed by the 27-member staff while fighting fires. “Instead of a one-time cost of $80,000, we’ll rotate and replace nine each year,” Lenart stated. The cost estimate for 2016 replacements is $22,500.

Presenting a five- to 10-year projection, Lenart said that replacement of a 24-year-old ladder truck and a 20-year-old engine are on the horizon. In addition, replacement of the fire prevention vehicle, which is currently a recycled police SUV, and the addition of another firefighter and training officer are predicted, as is a major remodel of the station.

“The current 1954 fire station is maxed out on available space,” he said.

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