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Washington closes the door on competition for the city's fire department

Washington Fire Department

The city of Washington can issue just one license to an ambulance service for fire, ambulance and emergency services.

That requirement -- plus approval of the license by the city's police chief and city council -- was added Monday to the city's ambulance service ordinance, ending a two-months-long saga caused by a private ambulance company's plans to house ambulances in Washington.

The Washington Fire Department, which has been serving the city for more than 125 years and has had a contract with the city for more than 50 years, currently provides fire, ambulance and emergency services for the city.

Brian Barron, a representative of the board that governs the not-for-profit fire department, said before the council's unanimous approval of the ordinance amendment that the board had concerns about the ordinance that was in place.

"Allowing another ambulance company in the city could confuse our residents, and set a precedent for other private ambulance companies to set down roots in Washington," he said.

Stark County Ambulance Service posted this summer on an online job board that it was looking for "paramedics and critical care paramedics" to work in its "newly acquired station in Washington." The salary range for the full-time job was between $62,192 and $81,200.

There was no mention in the job posting of Stark County ambulances serving Washington. Instead, paramedics based in Washington would be serving in the company's Eastern region of Ottawa, Streator and Mendota.

Mayor Gary Manier addressed what he called "Facebook fodder" that he was involved in bringing Stark County Ambulance Service to Washington.

"I've never talked with the Stark County Ambulance owner. I have no idea of their plans," he said. "Having them here to compete with our fire department is not something I want to do. To think otherwise is ludicrous."

Also at Monday's council meeting, City Administrator Jim Snider announced that the city has been given an AA/Stable (high grade) credit rating by Standard & Poor's Global, three steps higher than the A2 (upper medium) rating it was given by Moody's in 2006.

A new credit rating was needed because the city is issuing a $5 million bond to address storm water issues.

"Because of this excellent rating, we'll get a lower interest rate on the storm water bond than we anticipated, which will save the city thousands of dollars in interest costs over the 15-year duration of the bond," Snider said.

"This city has lived within its means, managed its finances, and hasn't accrued any excessive debt in the last 17 years, even with the recovery from a tornado. That's a credit to the council, our city staff and especially Finance Director Joanie Baxter."

Washington last issued a bond in 2006. That bond, also for $5 million, was the city's contribution to the construction costs for Five Points Washington.

Council also agreed Monday to hold a discussion in October at its monthly committee of the whole meeting about a proposed $128,482 system that would live stream council, committee of the whole and Planning & Zoning meetings.

The proposal also includes an estimated $30,000 for furniture that would connect into the live streaming system, eliminating the need for tearing down and setting up furniture before each meeting.

City meetings are held in the training room of the Washington Fire Station.

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