Culver EMS volunteer organization could continue under new model

By: 
Jeff Kenney
Citizen editor

There may be life yet for Culver's volunteer EMS organization, which seemed poised to be officially dissolved last month in light of numbers too low to sustain its board, after discussion at the Feb. 24 meeting of Culver's town council.

There, discussion as to the legality of formally closing out the Culver-Union Twp. EMS as a volunteer organization had already taken place, with town attorney Jim Clevenger noting the only legal documentation on the matter dated back to its original incorporation paperwork from 1976, which actually only established the group for one year. Clevenger did recommend that the new EMS model the town is crafting, oriented towards the service as a town department similar to the current police department, should include specific language as to the role of volunteers in the operation.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, however, Robert Cooper Sr., himself a longtime volunteer with the ambulance service, asked what would happen if the volunteer organization "doesn't want to dissolve."

When council president Ginny Munroe noted that only two EMS volunteers now remain, making the five-member volunteer board required by its own by-laws an impossibility, Cooper said he understood the council's reasoning in switching the EMS to a paid department, but emphasized there is interest in recruiting more volunteers, retaining the funds the volunteer organization presently has in the bank, and continuing that organization as a legal entity.

Cooper added there are people "looking at joining" the volunteer entity, but they won't be able to do so if no such entity exists.

Clevenger suggested there could be a way to accommodate the request, explaining that the Marshall County Sheriff's Department recognizes what could be seen as a similar organization, a volunteer posse which operates within a structure approved and overseen by the Sheriff's Department.

"They (the volunteer EMS organization) would still have to operate under the direction of the EMTs," added Clevenger. "You don't just want anyone volunteering. You want to make sure they're capable of giving proper assistance."

Munroe asked Cooper to attend a 5 p.m. work session March 10, which intends to work through the legalities of the new EMS and its handling of volunteers, something Cooper said he would attempt to manage despite scheduling issues.

During the meeting, the council and interim EMS director Ruth Allman also discussed a proposed set of operating procedures for the new EMS department, about which Clevenger made a few minor suggestions for adjustment.

Munroe added that a work session earlier that same day included Union Township trustee Jerry Greeson and some members of the township advisory board. The trustee, she said, is agreeable to the changes as long as the town and township continue to have some form of EMS, and Greeson also understands the cost may increase.

The council voted to approve advertising the full-time director position.

For more background on the issues facing the service, see coverage of last month's discussion here: http://thepilotnews.com/content/culvers-volunteer-ems-likely-near-offici...

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