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Cole County Commission votes to suspend false-alarm rule

The Cole County Commission voted 2-1 to suspend for 60 days a county rule that allows the county to bill landowners for false alarms involving ambulances.

The suspension only applies to the Jefferson City Housing Authority.

The action comes after commissioners last month voted to be more proactive in enforcing the rule after they were told more than 51 percent of the 842 ambulance calls made to Dulle Towers from May 2010 through this January were false alarms.

Presiding Commissioner Marc Ellinger and Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle voted in favor of suspending the rule. Eastern District Commissioner Jeff Hoelscher voted against.

During the commission meeting Tuesday, Housing Authority attorney Jack Pletz said the 60-day suspension of the rule would allow the authority to determine what could be done to improve the situation.

He said they had checked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the current pull cord system they have in place meets HUD requirements for a call system. Pletz said they are also looking at other cities and what they’ve done.

The housing authority board is scheduled to meet Feb. 19 to discuss the matter.

Ellinger asked Allen Pollack, Housing Authority director, to work with Ambulance Director Mike Shirts on seeing how they could track calls during the 60-day period to better determine where the source of the false alarms.

Commissioners plan to take the issue up again in April at the end of the suspension period.

In other ambulance matters, commissioners plan to come back later this month to decide if an ambulance should be moved in Jefferson City to improve response times.

Last month, Shirts proposed moving the ambulance currently based at Fire Station 2 on East McCarty Street to the Cole County Sheriff’s Office at High and Adams streets.

A weeklong test last October found that having the ambulance at the sheriff’s office would drop response times from an average of six minutes down to two in the area where they get their highest number of calls, from Riverside Drive west to U.S. 54.

This ambulance would still be running from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The matter holding up the move is where to house the ambulance staff at the sheriff’s department.

If office space on the north side of the jail, near the sallyport where the ambulance would be based, could be found, commissioners would be in favor of the move. But if a space needed to be built for the staff, commissioners said they might not want to do it.

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