Proposed Cassopolis contract with SMCAS raises concerns

Published 1:06 pm Tuesday, January 18, 2005

By By JUDITH HIZER / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin thinks the plan for Cassopolis area townships to be served by the Southwestern Michigan Community Ambulance Service threatens to "dilute service" to the six municipalities who own it and depend on it now.
SMCAS is owned by the townships of Bertrand, Buchanan, Howard and Niles, and the cities of Buchanan and Niles.
Cassopolis area townships, which have indicated interest in SMCAS ambulance services include the villages of Cass and Vandalia, Penn Township, the northern half of Calvin Township, the northern half of Jefferson Township, and the southern half of LaGrange Township.
McCauslin submitted a letter to SMCAS Executive Director Marlene Beach Jan. 13, expressing his opposition to the plan.
Tim Gray, SMCAS operations manager, said he was surprised by the city's position.
According to Gray, should the contract be awarded to SMCAS, there would be no dilution of service to the Niles area.
He also said there would be a fourth ambulance available from Cass for mutual aid.
The bid, submitted by Marlene Beach on behalf of SMCAS on Nov. 2, was at a cost of $97,500 to cover the Cassopolis area townships with Cassopolis providing the current building and equipment, which includes two ambulances. The current ambulances would be converted to SMCAS vehicles. Without the use of the current building and equipment, the cost would be an additional $30,000.
If the current bid is accepted, the contract would be authorized.
Since the initial bid, Niles City Council member Bill Weimer has had second thoughts.
The Cassopolis Ambulance Authority accepted the bid for service, which was to cover Cass County. It has since been in a mire of political divisions between townships and villages, Weimer said.
McCauslin said, "We would encourage SMCAS to expand but it should be setup as a separate entity. If they want the level of expertise I would encourage them to look at how we are set up."
McCauslin is also concerned that citizens would get the false impression that their tax dollars were supporting another community.
There is currently no formal proposal on the table for Cassopolis to buy into SMCAS, although the possibility has been discussed.
A vote to buy into SMCAS would require a new proposal to be submitted to the SMCAS board.
Another option for Cassopolis is to buy into the Edwardsburg service. The Cassopolis area townships joint will meet on Feb. 5 and a decision is expected at that time.