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2013 Newport News - Archives

Newport Twp. sticks with decision on township ambulance assoc.

Township commissioners on Monday held firm in their decision to strip the township ambulance association of first-responder status for Basic Life Support calls despite pleas from the public and association members to reconsider and warnings of potentially longer response times.
The Nanticoke Community Ambulance Association in March sued Newport Township Firemen’s Community Ambulance, alleging it refused to pay about $30,000 owed for paramedic services as required in a joint billing agreement. The agreement allows the ambulance companies to jointly bill Medicare when both services respond simultaneously on a call.
Nanticoke recently told the commissioners in a letter the company would no longer honor the agreement and would have to bill residents directly for any calls if the township ambulance continued to respond to calls to which Nanticoke also was dispatched.
Commissioners on Oct. 7 voted to name Nanticoke ambulance first responder for BLS calls effective Nov. 1, and continue as first responder for Advanced Life Support calls as well. Newport ambulance was given until Nov. 30 to remove equipment and apparatus from township property.
“Our board, back when we received the letter, decided that a 24-hour-a-day paid ALS crew would be in ther best interest of the township,” Councilman Michael Roke said on Monday.
Township ambulance Capt. Jason Kowalski told the commissioners “misinformation” was being distributed to residents.
Kowalski said flyers stated the Nanticoke association would accept insurance payment as payment in full from Newport Township association paid members and would not bill them for any unpaid fees. But Kowalski said the Nanticoke association said in a letter it would not honor those memberships.
Kowalski also said it’s untrue that the township association was providing coverage only eight hours a day on weekdays and not at all on weekends. While Nanticoke has paid personnel on duty 24/7, the township has volunteers available to respond from home when paid workers are not on duty, he said.
Commissioner Chairman Paul Czapracki said Nanticoke would honor Newport memberships for billing purposes until the memberships expire, and that Nanticoke would be allowed to conduct membership drives in the township.
Jamie Souder, a township ambulance EMS volunteer, said he gave the commissioners “a full analysis” of the association that showed, among other things, that 40 percent of the township ambulance’s calls were in Nanticoke. “If Nanticoke can’t handle their own call volume, what happens if something happens in Newport?” he asked.
Roseanne Hoffman said the township ambulance was at her house within three minutes the day her late husband, James, the former fire chief, collapsed. “It gave him a chance at life, although it ended tragically. … Response time is of utmost importance. I don’t care about money. When it comes to saving a life, that’s the bottom line,” she said.
Hoffman said it can take nine minutes for a Nanticoke crew to arrive, but it takes only four minutes for brain damage to occur after someone stops breathing.
Martha Kanjorski said commissioners will be sorry if her husband ever needs and ambulance and Nanticoke isn’t available.
Tiffany Hoffman said any township ambulance volunteer can drive an ambulance to an emergency scene. “There needs to be something available in town. Even if nobody is being paid, somebody can jump on that ambulance and go save somebody’s life. It doesn’t matter if they’re paid or not. It’s not about money, it’s about the safety of the township,” she said.


Newport Twp. officials receive backlash over ambulance change

The Newport Township commissioners held their first meeting Monday since a new policy went into effect.
The commissioners voted unanimously last month to put the Nanticoke Ambulance Association in charge of being its full-time ambulance provider. The decision, which went into effect last Friday, essentially eliminates the localized service provided by the Newport Township Fireman's Community Ambulance.
Unsurprisingly, the commissioners were met with disgruntled staff at the meeting.
Newport Township ambulance attendant Norman W. Bodek, who received a round of applause following his statements, gave an impassioned speech, telling the board that response times will now be slowed, considering Nanticoke covers a big area.
More than halfway through the meeting, which lasted more than 45 minutes, a woman asked the commissioners if they could promise her that an ambulance would respond in a timely manner to attend to her very ill husband.
Commissioner Michael Roke assured her that an ambulance would be there quickly, but the woman lashed back, calling him a liar.
One of the positives of Nanticoke taking over the responsibilities is that Newport Township has an ambulance only for basic emergencies, while an advanced life support ambulance, which Nanticoke has, provides a paramedic who can administer drugs.
"The 24-hour-a-day paid (advance life support ambulance from Nanticoke) would benefit the township residents more than having somebody here eight hours per day," Roke said.
Roke defended the decision by saying their backs were against the wall considering the Newport Township ambulance crew is available only eight hours daily, but Bodek disputes that claim.
"The statement being made that we only have a crew on eight hours per day and then Nanticoke takes all the calls - that's incorrect," Bodek said after the meeting. "We have volunteers on (after the eight-hour shifts are done), which most towns around here operate on volunteer crews."
Roke said the neighboring ambulance companies have a feud, which complicates things even further.
"That's no secret, they've been spatting," Roke said. "And that's something that unfortunately we were put in the middle of here to make the decision."
Bodek said that from his understanding, Nanticoke has previously been approached about a possible merger between the two ambulance companies, which would have saved a few jobs with the Newport Township ambulance.
"This is not a merger, this is a takeover," Bodek told the board. "Nanticoke does not want anything to do with Newport ambulance as far as a merger goes. They just want to come in here - lock, stock and barrel - and take over the whole show."


Newport Twp. severs ties with ambulance

Starting Nov. 1, Newport Township Fireman's Community Ambulance will no longer answer calls in its own hometown.
The five-man township board of commissioners voted unanimously to make neighboring Nanticoke Ambulance Association its full-time provider at its meeting last week.
"(Newport Township Fireman's Community Ambulance) could obviously continue to operate independently, but they're not going to operate in the township," Commissioner Michael Roke said.
Jason Kowalski, an ambulance captain in Newport Township, said the vote was "demeaning" to community members who had volunteered and that it would "put us right out of business," because the company will no longer be able to earn money by billing residents for answering emergency calls.
Currently, Newport Township only has an ambulance for basic emergencies, while an advanced life support ambulance - carrying a paramedic who can administer drugs - from Nanticoke must be summoned alongside the township truck for more serious calls. Also, ambulances from Nanticoke, which are staffed 24 hours a day, already cover the township in the evenings and nights for the most part, Roke said, because Newport Township only staffs an ambulance crew from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The change, Roke said, was spurred by a letter from the Nanticoke Ambulance Association telling the township it was canceling its mutual billing agreement with its ambulance company, which would result in residents receiving bills from both organizations, leading to higher costs.
The canceled agreement stems from a financial dispute between the two ambulance organizations, which has mushroomed into a lawsuit. The two organizations split the payment from bills on advanced calls, and the Nanticoke association has accused the Newport Township company of owing it more than $30,000.
The spat nearly led to disaster in January, when a little girl suffering a seizure had to wait for an advanced life support ambulance to arrive from more than 10 miles away in Shickshinny, because the Newport Township Fireman's Community Ambulance had decided to bypass the much closer unit based in Nanticoke, less than 2 miles away.
The debacle made headlines and embarrassed the commissioners, who quickly switched back to the ambulance in Nanticoke. Roke and Commissioner John Wilkes Jr. sidestepped questions asking if the change was related to that incident, saying Nanticoke's ambulances would provide the township with better service.
But some argue against that stance. Dan Kowalski, the father of Jason Kowalski and a longtime member of the Newport Township Fireman's Community Ambulance, warned that response times to emergencies in the township would increase due to the other responsibilities of the Nanticoke ambulances, which serve as the backup for several other communities. He noted that ambulances from the township often answer calls in Nanticoke because of those other commitments.
Township commissioners and Nanticoke ambulance officials responded that the ambulance in Newport Township often isn't able to answer calls even during its staffed day shift, while Nanticoke will provide 24/7 service.
The township does not supply any funding to either ambulance organization, but does currently give Newport Township Fireman's Community Ambulance space in the administration building for its trucks and offices. As it stands now, they will be getting an eviction notice in a few weeks.
Jason Kowalski, who admitted the organization has been struggling with the county-wide problem of a lack of volunteers, said it may be forced to sell its trucks to pay off its outstanding debts.
Ambulance companies make money through billable calls, state grants and community fundraising, such as membership drives.
As a result of the change, individual ambulance memberships, which protect residents from out-of-pocket fees not covered by insurance on ambulance bills, will increase from $35 to $45, and family memberships will go from $45 to $75, but the Nanticoke Ambulance Association will honor valid memberships from Newport Township, President Bernie Norieka said.


Emotions are still raw

Slashing victim says her life hasn’t been same since attack - (570) 829-7237

The scars — external and internal — still remain apparent to Jennifer Mieczkowski, the 31-year-old slashing victim of New Year’s 2012.
Jennifer Mieczkowski, who lives with her 8-year-old daughter, Gabby, in the township’s Sheatown section, said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is in therapy as a result of the attack. She suffered multiple cuts to her face and neck, some of which nearly sliced her carotid artery on Jan. 1, 2012 in a Nanticoke bar, she said.
She isn’t working and said all she wants is “some justice” in the case.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Wednesday the case is not closed, but it’s not likely charges of aggravated assault will be filed. Simple assault charges probably will be filed, she said, but she and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Roberts will meet to discuss the case and decide.
Mieczkowski is dismayed about lesser charges being considered, given the circumstances of what she says happened at the now-closed Prospect Street Cafe.
In a civil lawsuit filed 13 months ago against the bar and its owner, Mieczkowski identified Melanie Figueroa, who was 20 at the time, as her assailant. Figueroa has denied any involvement.
Mieczkowski alleges in the civil suit Figueroa slashed her face after Mieczkowski went to the aid of a friend who fell off a bar stool.
At first, Mieczkowski was unwilling to testify if the District Attorney’s Office was going to file simple assault charges, she said. That was six months ago; Mieczkowski called the office Tuesday to ask for an update. She was told the case had been closed because she wouldn’t testify, Mieczkowski said.
DA’s version
Salavantis said that is not the case. “We will meet today or tomorrow to discuss where we are going with charges,” she said. “Now that Mieczkowski has decided to testify, we will go forward.”
Salavantis said her office has conducted extensive interviews and gathered considerable evidence. “We know certain details of what happened that night,” she said. “Aggravated assault, while a possibility, is not likely.”
Mieczkowski said some level of justice needs to be served, so she will participate in any prosecution.
“The investigation, in my opinion, was not done well,” she said. “The district attorney should understand why I want aggravated assault charges filed.”
Mieczkowski said she was only out for an enjoyable evening on the night in question. She and her boyfriend had stopped to pick up beer when she met a friend who, said Mieczkowski, would later get involved in a fight with Figueroa.
Mieczkowski said she was assaulted and her life hasn’t been the same since.
“When I was told the case had been closed, I was shocked,” she said. “How can you close this case?”


Gaming grants don’t always cover full cost of municipal projects
Partial awards put area officials in predicament of revising or scrapping their projects.

Andrew M. Seder - Times Leader

Newport Township needs a new municipal building to house township offices and the police department. So township officials applied for a $775,000 grant from the more than $12 million in available funds this year generated by play at slot machines at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino.
When word came last month that only $500,000 was awarded, a decision needed to be made: Forfeit the funds with a “thanks but no thanks” letter or pick up the remaining $275,000 cost from township coffers.
Township Manager Richard Zika said a new building was needed to replace the 1911 structure currently used, and $500,000 was a significant amount toward that goal. So the township will proceed with the project and come up with the difference.
“We’ll figure out something else,” Zika said, noting that other grant funding sources will be explored. “You don’t get many shots at it. We’ve been after this for four years. We’re very pleased.”


Newport renames Nanticoke as first responder, 570-821-2118

Newport Township officials have reversed last month's emergency dispatch protocol switch, but changes may still be in the works.
Newport Township officials renamed Nanticoke's medic unit as first responder for advanced life support calls, a little more than a week after the unit was passed over to assist a 3-year-old girl suffering a seizure for a medic unit stationed 10 miles away.
Township commissioner Mike Roke confirmed Sunday that president Paul Czapracki reinstated Nanticoke's Medic 25 on Friday. However, he said township officials would continue to examine their emergency service provider options.
"Everything is back to the way it was, but we're still exploring options, and we're going to discuss them at our meeting," Roke said.
Newport Township ambulance officials severed ties with Nanticoke's medic unit last month, advising Luzerne County 911 to first dispatch Berwick's paramedic unit, based in Shickshinny, and then Hanover Township's Medic 9 as the second-due responder for advanced life support calls.
Roke said township officials have spend the last few days fact-gathering, and will address their findings at today's commissioners meeting.
The switch in first responders came just days before 3-year-old Carleigh Jo Hufford suffered a seizure Jan. 25 at Magic World Childhood Care in Newport Township. Her mother, Sarah Miller, later spoke out against the change that prevented Nanticoke's medic unit - only a mile and a half away - from responding.
Instead, Luzerne County 911 dispatched Berwick Area Ambulance's Medic 95, a paramedic unit based out of a fire house on Union Street in Shickshinny, more than 10 miles away. Hufford survived the episode and was recovering at home.
Czapracki said last week they intended the change to be temporary while the commissioners investigated complaints from its own emergency service personnel, which do not include paramedics, about their counterparts in Nanticoke. He refused to explain the complaints.
Harold DeStefano, president of the Newport Township Fireman's Community Ambulance, said last week he believed Berwick's Medic 95 would provide solid service. He acknowledged there has been a rocky relationship at times with Nanticoke's ambulance, but wouldn't go into details.
Newport Township has a part-time basic life support unit that uses emergency medical technicians to answer ambulance calls and sometimes uses volunteer EMTs to respond to calls. An advanced life support unit, with a more skilled paramedic on board, is called to assist on more serious calls.
The Newport Township commissioners meet at 6 p.m. today at the township municipal building in Wanamie.

At its regular meeting held of January 7, 2013, the Newport Township Commissioners appointed Jeremy Blank of Glen Lyon to the position of Chief of Police and James G. Hoffman to the position of Fire Chief.


Newport Township officials won't raise taxes, fees
Elizabeth Skrapits - Citizens Voice

Newport Township will ring in the new year with a search for a new police chief and good news for residents: no tax or fee increases.
Police Chief Robert Impaglia left the force to join the state police, and officer-in-charge James Evans recently resigned to take on another job, Commissioner John Zyla said.
Township officials are advertising for a new chief and another officer for the force, which consists of part-timers.
"We didn't make any decisions as of yet," Commissioner Chairman Paul Czapracki said.
He also mentioned something that will make residents happy.
"We passed the budget with no tax increase whatsoever," Czapracki said.
Not only that, township officials didn't raise garbage or other fees either, and employees got a small raise, Zyla said.
"We're very fortunate so far. I don't know how long it's going to last, but we're very fortunate," he said.
But they know they'll have to be careful. Zyla said a plow truck broke down and if there is more snow, the township will have to contract for its removal until it is fixed. That's the sort of thing that kills municipal budgets, he noted.

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