Md. county's EMS dispute roiled by director's controversial email

The family of two late volunteers called a proposal to rename a rescue squad after them a "political ploy" to garner favor for the county's takeover of the squad


Greg Larry
Cumberland Times News, Md.

CUMBERLAND, Md. — Members of the LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad remain concerned for the future of their station as Allegany County officials mull budget and manpower issues for area first responders.

The issues came to the surface at Thursday’s public meeting of the Allegany County Board of Commissioners. Numerous representatives of fire and rescue stations across the county showed up to voice their frustration with the system.

Much of the disagreement involves the percentage split that is shared between county EMS responders and the fire and rescue squads. The revenue from insurance billings is currently split depending on who responds to a call.

Another issue that has been thrust into the limelight in recent days involves the LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Representatives of LaVale said they were sent an email from James Pyles, director of emergency services for Allegany County, that caused concern.

According to Scott Whetsell, acting chief of the LaVale Volunteer Rescue Squad, the email was not well received. A response letter was drafted by extended family of the late Ken and Betty May, lifelong volunteers and advocates for volunteerism in LaVale and beyond.

In response to Pyle’s email, the letter said, “Mr. Pyles informed the membership that they had until Sept. 11 to fully integrate into the county and turn over the keys to the building and equipment or risk adverse public perception. Mr. Pyles stated that the squad would be (rededicated) and forever named the ‘Ken and Betty May Rescue Squad.’”

Members of the May family said Ken and Betty did not want, or seek, recognition.

“Unfortunately, we believe the offer to name the squad in Ken and Betty’s name has less to do with their service and more with creating a political ploy to try to get people to take the county’s side in this ugly issue,” the response letter said.

“We, the family of Ken and Betty May, do not want any part of this takeover. As stated above, we feel this name change is a slap in the face to everything Ken and Betty believed in and we will not give our permission for their names to be used in this way,” the letter added.

The letter also said the choice of Sept. 11, the anniversary of terror attacks on the nation, as a deadline was in poor taste.

Pyles spoke at the meeting and apologized for a lapse in selecting Sept. 11 as a deadline.

Pyles said he looks at data when making decisions.

“Data tells you, where are we; are we in the right place? I looked at the budget and the billing and it made no sense to me. The billing system was created 13 years ago.

“When you look at the revenue for Allegany County (EMS), it is $87.00 per call. The current structure is not fair to our taxpayers and not fair to the overall system that has been provided. We will reconvene with everybody and we will get an answer and get back to you. It will be a better place when we are redone with (reorganizing the) EMS system.”

Pyles said he would extend the deadline for a response from the LaVale Rescue Squad to Sept. 18.

Jake Shade, county commission president, said the cost of the emergency response system has skyrocketed in recent years from $810,000 annually to $4.3 million. The officials agreed to create a workgroup to discuss the issues and try to reach a compromise.

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©2020 the Cumberland Times News (Cumberland, Md.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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