Fire company weighing its options

Judge ruled against Reese in billing spat


January 21, 2001|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

Officials for a volunteer fire company will decide later this month whether to pursue further court action against the Carroll firemen's association to obtain county funds or to comply with a mandate to bill $200 for ambulance service.

Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. decided last week not to order the Carroll County Volunteer Firemen's Association to turn over $12,500 in county funds to the Reese and Community Volunteer Fire Company. The association has withheld the money because Reese has refused to institute the minimum billing for ambulance service as other Carroll companies have.

"The company will make a decision at a later date this month," said Joe Spangler, president of the Reese fire company. "We're very upset that we didn't get a ruling in this case."

Ruling from the bench, Burns denied an injunction sought by Reese that would have released the quarterly payment for emergency services. Burns said the dispute was something the courts should stay out of and that the parties should resolve it themselves.

"We feel this was a clear-cut case in our favor," Spangler said, adding the decision didn't do justice "to either us or the taxpayers."

In May 1998, the firemen's association had voted to begin ambulance billing at the urging of the county commissioners, who were seeking additional funding for emergency medical services staff. In February 1999, Reese fire company members voted to not bill for ambulance service.

After the association threatened to withhold county funds from Reese, Reese started billing $5 per call.

When Reese refused to bill the $200 minimum, the association withheld the company's funds, starting July 1. The county annually gives the firemen's association $50,000 for each of 12 ambulance companies for EMS personnel. The association hands out the funds on a quarterly basis.

Reese took the dispute to court in fall. Reese argued that the association didn't follow its own bylaws in ordering the billing for ambulance service. Attorneys for the firemen's association argued that the bylaws gave the organization the right to take punitive action against any company that doesn't follow the rules.

"It's up to Reese," said John Korman, association president. "A motion was made for each company to send a letter to the association saying they are billing the minimum $200, and until we get that letter from Reese, we're not doing anything. We'll just keep withholding their funds."

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