Mehlville fire district statistics rebut Green Park officials’ ‘reduced staffing’ claim

Hilmer ‘actually thankful’ for Green Park’s ‘factually challenged letter’

By BURKE WASSON

As Green Park elected officials are concerned with “reduced staffing” from the Mehlville Fire Protection District’s ambulance service to the city, district statistics show that those services actually are more comprehensive than in recent years.

MFPD Board of Directors Chairman Aaron Hilmer, in response to a letter sent to the fire district last week that was signed by five of Green Park’s seven elected officials, said the district’s ambulance service to the city of Green Park not only is more extensive than in recent history, but also the most comprehensive in the entire fire district.

“The city of Green Park represents only 2.29 percent of the Mehlville fire district …,” Hilmer told the Call. “They have more ALS (advanced life-support) equipment in their city limits per capita than any other area in all of south county.”

Hilmer’s 2.29-percent estimate is based on Green Park’s 1,811 registered voters compared to the 79,236 registered voters who reside within the district’s boundaries.

Despite Green Park officials’ concerns that the fire district employs 12-hour-per-day ambulance service to the city instead of 24 hours, figures compiled by MFPD Assistant Chief Steve Mossotti show that the city is benefiting from more extensive ambulance service now than in previous years.

Asked if he had received any complaints about levels of service from Green Park residents or city officials since he was elected in 2005, Hilmer said there have been “none that I’m aware of.”

District statistics show that the fire district has an ambulance staffed from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day at the Green Park firehouse on Mueller Road. For 56 days in 2007, the district has planned for 24-hour ambulance service. The district also supports one to three paramedics on a pumper and squad for 24 days this November and two paramedics per ambulance for 12 hours per day.

Hilmer points out that this staffing is a stark contrast from 2004, when the Mueller Road firehouse had no ambulance staffed and no paramedics. The district has 48 paramedics total compared to 36 paramedics in 2004, eight ALS trucks compared to none in 2004 and 30 employees trained as both firefighters and paramedics compared to no cross-trained employees in 2004.

“In 2004, the fifth ambulance was not even staffed,” Hilmer said. “Where was their (Green Park officials’) concern then? Now it’s staffed during the peak 12 hours of the day every day. And so far this year, it’s been staffed 24 hours a day (for) 56 days. Why do we do it between 7:30 (a.m.) and 7:30 (p.m.)? In the last three years, between 70 and 80 percent of our call volume is between that time. We’re operating as efficiently as we can and providing the services when they’re needed. The majority of our calls is when it’s totally staffed.”

Concern that the fire district provides 12-hour ambulance service to Green Park instead of 24-hour service was expressed in a letter signed by Green Park Mayor Tony Konopka and four of the city’s six aldermen sent last week to MFPD Chief Jim Silvernail. Konopka said that Ward 1 Alderman Jackie Wilson and Ward 3 Alderman Fred Baras had not signed it.

Konopka, who instructed Ward 1 Alderman Judy Betlach to draft the letter after reading of Hilmer’s proposal to contract emergency services to the city of Crestwood, said aldermen never discussed the request for increased ambulance service and were only asked to sign the letter.

“It wasn’t discussed at all,” Konopka said. “The board never discussed it …

“Let’s just say I guess I talked with Judy. And I laid some things out. And she drafted the letter … Then I sent (by e-mail) a copy to all the aldermen and told them if they wanted to sign it, they didn’t have to but that I was going to sign it and send it in. If they wanted to sign it also, they could and it would be at the (Nov. 19) meeting.”

Hilmer believes that having five elected officials sign the letter without discussing it in an open session shows a lack of respect for both Green Park residents and the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law.

“We’ve made the district more transparent than in the past by being accessible to the media and by doing as much as possible in open session,” Hilmer said. “It’s clear the majority of Green Park officials don’t share the same respect for the Sunshine Law, as evidenced by this letter signed by a quorum of elected officials and never discussed at a board meeting. I think it’s a clear violation of not only the intent, but also the letter of the Sunshine Law.”

While Green Park’s letter states city officials’ concerns with a “deal” for Crestwood to contract Mehlville’s emergency services, Crestwood Mayor Roy Robinson sent a letter Nov. 16 to Hilmer stating that the city would prefer to hear from residents during town-hall meetings early next year before deciding to consider contracting emergency services with any fire district.

Hilmer had proposed contracting Crest-wood’s fire and ambulance services through Mehlville at “a savings to the city of Crestwood of over $200,000 every year.”

An excerpt from Green Park’s Nov. 19 letter to the Mehlville fire district states: “… Despite the administrative location of the MFPD within Green Park, despite the high population of seniors within Green Park, despite the presence of the Green Park Nursing Home, and despite the high proportion of emergency support calls, the MFPD has limited Green Park Ambulance staffing service to hours of 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. In the interim, Green Park citizenry must rely on support from other sites. And now, the MFPD apparently has plans to further drain these precious resources by the service extension of MFPD boundaries to Crestwood

“… As city officials, we are very concerned about our citizens and the already reduced MFPD Ambulance staffing in Green Park. We want to know what is being done to beef up the services to Green Park citizenry. Green Park cannot continue to become victims of MFPD overextended resources because of the demands of the planned Crestwood ‘deal’ …”

Hilmer said he is perplexed at the rationale city officials used in drafting the letter and laments that city leaders “just couldn’t ask for the facts before they wrote their letter.”

“I can only speculate as to why they would send this letter,” he said. “After watching Alderwoman Betlach and (Ward 2) Alderman (Tim) Thuston’s sorry performance on Channel 2’s You Paid For It, I guess they were trying to point out another entity that can’t manage taxpayers’ money correctly. They pointed in the wrong place.

“I’m actually thankful for their factually challenged letter because it gives me a chance to showcase the service improvements that (MFPD board Treasurer) Bonnie Stegman has put in place since elected in 2005.”