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ECC balks at county-wide safety district

Sun Advocate reporter

East Carbon officials are moving forward with plans to bring together all of the area's public safety agencies, not as a special service district, but as an interlocal contract.

"I think we need to form a district and we are moving forward with those plans. But right now we need to do something to join our operations together and we have decided to move forward through the interlocal agreement," said East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine.

According to city council member David Maggio, who represented East Carbon and Sunnyside at recent county commission sessions, the towns are not interested in the plans set forth by the Carbon Commissioners.

"This is my contention," said Maggio. "If we throw all of our money into a big pile with all of the entities in Carbon County, which is what the commission is saying we should do, we aren't going to get anything out of the pile. In a county-wide district we would be given a water hose and one of those pumps that you have to jump and down on to operate. For an ambulance, we get six guys and a gurney. Now that's not something I'm in favor of."

Maggio continued to contend that where the county is concerned, East Carbon and Sunnyside both have always been at the bottom of the priority list.

"The answers I got from the county commission when I appeared before them was not anything I wanted to hear," he continued. "That thing that was on the table, it slid off. So when our cities met again, we discussed changing our current interlocal agreement."

Rather than starting over with new negotiations and a new contract, East Carbon Attorney Jeremy Humes was asked to modify the current agreement which allows the municipalities to share the area's public safety complex. The amendment would join the cities' fire departments as well as bring the Sunnyside Ambulance Service into the fold.

According to Maggio, both towns will have to review and accept the proposed change once Humes has made it.

"Right now this is just the easiest way for us to go," he said. "The only difference between us coming together this way and forming a district is taxing authority."

East Carbon officials lamented that they would see taxing rights as a way to improve local public safety. However, they reported that coming together to share ambulance service costs and form a single fire department quickly was vital.

"This is a start," said East Carbon Council Member Barbara Robinett, who also manages the ambulance service. "With this we are going forward instead of going backward."

City leaders have long held that keeping the ambulance service local was at the heart of their need to come together.

"Best case scenario we would be waiting for 40 minutes for Carbon County to cover these cities," contended LaFontaine. "If one of our kids get into a serious situation and we are waiting 40 minutes, that is unacceptable."

The city will now GRAMA request financial documents from the Sunnyside Ambulance Service to get a clear picture of the operations financial bottom line and what that will mean to East Carbon.

"We need those figures to put our budget together," said LaFontaine.

Moving forward, city attorney Jeremy Humes will amend the current interlocal agreement for approval from both local councils.

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