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Lancaster County municipalities form first-of-its-kind regional EMS authority

The new Municipal Emergency Services Authority of Lancaster County will be the first rate-setting regional municipal emergency services authority in Pennsylvania.

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — It’s something that’s never been done in Pennsylvania.

Eight municipalities in northwestern Lancaster County have formed a regional EMS authority, where all property owners will be required to pitch in financially.

The founding municipalities are Conoy Township, East Donegal Township, Elizabethtown Borough, Elizabeth Township, Marietta Borough, Mount Joy Township, Penn Township and West Donegal Township.

"If you live in one of the eight municipalities that are served by Northwest EMS, instead of joining voluntarily with a subscription fee, you will be charged a fee," explained John Yoder, township manager of West Donegal Township.

It comes as Northwest EMS struggles to stay afloat, like many other ambulance services nationwide.

"We were looking at the possibility of in three or four years, Northwest being insolvent," said Yoder.

The authority's board will consist of a representative from each of the authority’s founding municipalities. The board will be responsible for determining the authority’s services and fees.

Those involved say the annual fee each property owner would pay is on par with a typical Northwest EMS subscription fee.

It could run somewhere between $75 to $90, but the exact amount is still being determined. 

"That will be their primary goal at the beginning, gathering the parcel data, really drilling through that to figure out what’s the best fee and appropriate fee to charge based on the number of households, number of businesses in that area," said Marc Hershey, Elizabethtown Borough Council President and chair of the committee of municipal leaders who convened to address the local EMS crisis.

As a regional municipal entity, the authority will hold public hearings, enabling community members to have a voice regarding any changes to services or rates.

Yoder explained that the yearly fee will be much fairer than tacking on an additional property tax.

"Our township has a very large, non-taxable property base so the properties that are taxable would be carrying the load for the properties that are non-taxable," he said."

By requiring all residents and businesses to chip in, municipal leaders say it will provide a stable, reliable stream of funding for local emergency medical services.

"By having this, when someone picks up the phone and calls 911, God forbid they need it, there’s going to be somebody ready to respond," said Hershey.

He believes this regional authority could become a model for solving the EMS crisis in other parts of Pennsylvania.

"There’s folks who have reached out to me this week from other parts of the state, elected officials in other areas [saying], ‘Hey we’re excited about what you’re doing in Lancaster County, we hope you’re successful because it’s something we need as well.’”

The new authority will start holding board meetings in March.

A public hearing will be held this summer on the authority’s emergency services and fee structure.

The authority plans to be operational services by early 2024.

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