After emerging from a closed-door executive session Thursday morning (Dec. 28), Commissioner Barb Lewis once again petitioned her colleagues on the Board of Commissioners to second a motion to withdraw the proposal that would put Liberty Township’s emergency medical services (EMS) under Delaware County control.
And again, Lewis’ motion did not receive the second to move forward to withdraw the proposal.
“The most important thing I’ve learned in my 11 years in elected office, …is that the public’s trust in government is hard earned and quickly lost,” Lewis said in her petition. “Whatever the merits of this board’s recent EMS proposal to Liberty Township—its roll-out has been highly controversial and produced unintended consequences.”
“I believe this board is losing the public’s trust and confidence over this issue and I want to calm the waters,” she added later in her petition.
Lewis said since the release of the proposal to the Liberty trustees, she has been “bombarded with questions from all parts of the county.”
“How is Delaware County benefiting from all this? How is this making Delaware County a better place to live or a more attractive place to start a new business? What is going to happen next? What is the plan? … Why the sudden rush? Who stands to gain from all this? Is all this just about money?” she said.
Lewis said the questions come from “elected township trustees, mayors and city council members, neighborhood associations, a school board, the Columbus Zoo, business leaders, developers, and the agribusiness community… .”
Lewis, a former Genoa Township trustee, reminded the board that the City of Powell had also sent a letter of cease and desist carrying a threat of “legal action” if trustees move forward with the proposal.
“Through all this, I have heard only one positive or encouraging comment about this board’s EMS proposal—but hundreds of sincere concerns,” she said. “This is not unifying our county—it is dividing it. It is adversely affecting the morale of our residents—especially those outstanding servants who are providing daily EMS service in Delaware County.”
Lewis said the issue angers and frustrates “thousands” of Delaware County residents “who feel their voices and concerns are being ignored” and has now gone in search of answers by “filing onerous public record requests that are impacting the efficiency and morale of (county) staff.”
“I know none of this was your intention or expectation, but the unintended consequences of this board’s actions are growing by the day and cannot be ignored,” she said. “Please, in all sincerity and with great respect—for the good of all of Delaware County—I urge you to take a time out on the county’s EMS proposal to Liberty Township.”
As the other two commissioners traded glances over Lewis’ motion, Commissioner Gary Merrell said, “I won’t second it.”
Commissioner Jeff Benton said what seems to be lost is they as a board were “approached by two trustees from Liberty Township to talk about combining forces.”
“We have an obligation to do that because of the (half) percent sales tax,” he said. “We have an obligation to listen and provide those services.”
Lewis reminded the other two commissioners that they have heard first hand from residents and know of the events that have occurred in Liberty Township and couldn’t see anything constructive coming from the discussion.
“Things have only gotten worse and there has been more of a public outcry,” she said. “What I’m really concerned with is the trust in us as a board. I think this has been very divisive…I was hoping to give this a timeout and recall this board’s proposal.”
Merrell said that he is frustrated with what he sees as “considerable misinformation.”
”I’ve chosen the high road to not involve myself in that conversation because I really believe it’s a Liberty Township issue,” he said.
Merrell pointed out that the board didn’t have a second on the motion and that a discussion wasn’t necessary, however, he decided to speak on the record.
“We gave a conceptual idea of what it could look like,” he said. “They could look at it and say we like it. They could look at it and say there are changes. They could look at it and say we don’t care for it at all and there’s no interest. And they haven’t done any of those things at this point.”
Merrell said his impression is that Liberty Township trustees are in an evaluation process and far from reaching any conclusion.
“I think there are some people down there that want to find some answers to the run part of the situation that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Lewis’ petition can be seen on YouTube at 1:55:26 into the session. To view Lewis petition to withdraw the proposal go to 1:55:26 of the session.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.