Chapin ambulance loss draws fire

By Al Dozier

Did Lexington County turn down a brand new ambulance funded by the state?

That’s what some residents are saying about the county’s response to Sen. Ronnie Cromer’s offer of $365,000 in state funds for the purchase of a fully-equipped ambulance to serve the Chapin area.

Cromer’s action was a response to complaints that have surfaced throughout the Chapin area for months about long wait times for ambulances. It was good news to them that an additional ambulance would be made available to the Chapin area.

But county officials found problems with the offer.

The $365,000 would not be enough to fully-fund and staff a new ambulance, according to local EMS officials. The total cost would be $875,000.

In a letter to Lexington County Administrator Lynn Sturkey, Chief EMS officer Brian Hood said EMS could undoubtedly use funding to augment services for the citizens of Lexington County.

“Unfortunately, the funding would not be able to expand services for only one particular community. During surges in call volume within the county, our resources will be positioned to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of our citizens. This may necessitate the movement of an ambulance or quick response vehicle to another area of the county.”

Lexington County Councilwoman Charli Wessinger said the county would be receptive to any contributions from the state for EMS services, but it could not come in the way Cromer was offering.

But Cromer said allocations from the state could not be made for something as non-specific as EMS services.

He blamed himself, and the county, for not communicating more on the issue.
Chapin Mayor Al Koon said the county should have figured out a way to accept the $365,000.

They “turned it down,” he said.

Koon said Lexington County Council should have held discussions on whatever procedures were necessary to get the funding.

Jason Resnick, a former EMS worker, and a candidate for the District 5 Council seat held by Wessinger, said the county should have taken the necessary steps to secure the ambulance.

“It was a matter of non-communication,” he said.

Even if the new ambulance would have to circulate throughout the Chapin-Irmo area,

Resnick said it would still have benefited the EMS needs for the town of Chapin.

As for the increase in staffing costs, Chapin could have come up with the necessary funds, Resinck said.

Resnick said the council waited a month before even responding to Cromer’s offer.

“They made a ton of excuses,” he said of county officials.