Belpre Officials Struggle to Fund Ambulance and Fire Department

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The city of Belpre has volunteer emergency medical technicians, but most aren't available during the day because they also have paying jobs.

"Not just daddy works any more, but both parts of the couple, mom and dad, husband and wife, work now," says Mayor Michael Lorentz. "So the daylight hours is our problem."

For two decades, response to daytime emergencies has come from paid EMT's; two full-time and two part-time. But the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department says it no longer has the money.

"They, as a group, can't do that any more, and we've never had to do that," the mayor says. "So we, as a group, have to sit down to talk about it."

The reason: declining sales of instant tickets used to fund them, as well as a decline of the volunteers to sell those tickets. Eric Sinnett II, the head of the funding group, says the rise of lottery parlors in West Virginia has resulted in decreased demand for the Belpre tickets.

One option: a levy to fund those paid EMT's, one not unlike volunteer fire levies in other communities.

"I don't think we need to go that route, yet," says Lorentz. "That will be discussed when the service director, myself, the officers of the club and probably the finance committee get together to discuss that."

They have two months. That's when Sinnett says the paid positions are due to end.

Currently, the city gets money from third-party billing for emergency medical runs…but none of that money goes to the paid EMT's.

When asked about that today as a funding option, Sinnett said it's up to the city to find a way to keep the service going.