By John Armstrong, Wirt County Journal

Josh Johnson, Director of the Calhoun County EMS, was on the agenda at the December 20, 2011, meeting of the Wirt County Commission, but it was not readily clear at first what he was requesting from the Commission.

"We have been approached by some members of the community that had questions and concerns about the Wirt EMS in terms of a perceived shortcoming in the service they are providing the county," Johnson explained.

"We are entertaining the notion of establishing a station in Wirt County to assist the Wirt EMS so there are no gaps in the coverage for the citizens of Wirt County," he stated.

Johnson said they were not here to try and take over.

"We're here to help and offer a solution," he said. "We would be the second squad called, if the local squad could not respond or if we were closer in time /distance and could be there quicker," Johnson stated.

Several members of the Wirt EMS were in attendance at the meeting and it was clear that Johnson was being careful in his choice of words.

"We're not here to compete with the Wirt EMS. It was brought to our attention because some people came to us and asked for help," Johnson said.

According to Johnson, there would be no cost to the Wirt County Commission or to anyone else for that matter.

Johnson said the service would be an extension of Calhoun County's coverage. Calhoun has a paid staff and the stations are manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

"One of the unknowns in this is the data. We have run into an obstacle getting information from the Wood County 911 center on the number of runs, missed runs, and how long it takes for the Wirt EMS to respond," Johnson explained.

"Those are the things we would need to know so we can determine if it's feasible for us to do this. We have approached the Wood County 911, but have not received a favorable response in terms of them giving us the needed data," Johnson said.

"The first step is addressing that issue, so we can determine the feasibility of having a 24/7 service in Wirt County," he stated.

"I guess what we are asking is for your permission to pursue collecting the data and information from the Wood County 911 center," Johnson said.

"So you want us to approve you getting public information. You want us to approve something that is the law," Commissioner Robert Lowe Jr. asked.

Danny May, an EMT with the Calhoun EMS, said that some of the information they are seeking does not have to be given out, and if the Wirt Commission would sign off on it he believed the Wood County 911 center would give them the data they are needing.

"We have a mutual Aid agreement with Wirt County already. By law, if one county touches another, you have to have a mutual aid agreement with your neighboring county," May explained. "This would just be an extension of that," he added.

"We heard you guys were broke and your ambulances are junk," Commissioner Charles Murray stated.

"Our trucks are not new, but whose are," Johnson answered back.

"Well I just heard that through the grapevine," Murray said.

"Logistically, we have three trucks and can shift them around to provide needed coverage," Johnson explained.

"Our people are paid to be there. Wirt is a volunteer service, one of only a few volunteer services in the state," Johnson stated.

Johnson said Calhoun County has an excess levy based on real estate. "Twenty-five percent of our budget comes from the levy," Johnson explained.

"I can't believe the tax payers in Calhoun County would want the EMS squad from there down here in Wirt County and them paying the bill," Commissioner Robert Lowe Jr. stated.

Johnson said the station would be centralized and the runs would pay for the service.

"How many runs would you need to pay the bills," Lowe asked. "About one and a half a day, 7 to 10 per week," Johnson responded.

"We'll research this and on your end see if you can get the records and data you need. After the first of the year, we will have all the numbers to look at and make a decision then," Lowe said.

After Johnson and his delegation left, Mike Robinson, President of the Board of the Wirt County EMS stated that they had not missed a run in the last two months.

"I just don't see how they could pay to have a squad here," he stated.

In addition, Robinson said that previously some of the missed runs were due to a shortage in staff which has been for the most part corrected.

"We have added three staff and have a new EMT. That's four new personnel this year," he pointed out.

"You want your citizens to have the very best service so this is a very serious decision," Lowe explained.

"There is not enough volume of service here to support another unit. What happens if our local EMS folds up. I want to proceed very cautiously," Lowe stated.

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