County may purchase new oxygen system
In attendance at the Monday meeting of the Putnam County Commissioners to recognize National Emergency Medical Services Week, Operation Life Director E.J. Claflin also presented the Putnam County Commissioners with a problem.
The cascade system that fills oxygen bottles for local fire departments and OL is 20 years old and in need of replacement. Moreover, many local fire departments are still using old steel oxygen cylinders, which need to be replaced with industry-standard aluminum cylinders.
It all ads up to a $4,519.70 bill that Claflin was curious how to pay.
The biggest problem, as Claflin sees it, is the outdated steel tanks. Every time Operation Life responders see one in use, they trade one of their own out for the old bottle and then remove it from service.
“Frankly, some of these are unsafe and need to be taken for scrap,” Claflin said.
However, the cascade system is also show signs of its age as well. While the system is housed at the OL station in Greencastle, Claflin said all local fire departments’ oxygen tanks are also refilled there at no charge. The ambulance service pays about $360 per month for oxygen.
One of the first questions asked by commissioners was whose responsibility these expenditures would be. This on the heels of the county upping its annual funding of Operation Life from $80,000 to $400,000.
“Is this our decision or is it Operation Life’s?” Commissioner David Berry asked.
However, Claflin feels that such upgrades, the biggest piece of which mainly benefit other departments, are not OL’s responsibility. The aluminum canisters cost $69 each, and Claflin estimated that 24 of them need to be replaced.
“I will not move forward with this,” Claflin said. “I cannot subsidize oxygen tanks for the entire county.”
After an initial suggestion by Commissioner Rick Woodall to use the Economic Development Warchest to fund the request, Berry proposed the Hazardous Materials Fund, which has been used for previous fire and EMS needs.
He said that more than $200,000 of those funds remain at the county’s disposal in 2018.
“I feel like this falls within the restrictions of the haz fund,” Berry said. “Within that $200,000 amount, I think we could fund that $4,600.”
One stipulation Berry placed on the expenditure is that the asset, just like the ambulances Operation Life uses, would remain in the county’s name, should the service ever go defunct.
The commissioners approved the plan 3-0, with Don Walton joining the affirmative votes. However, the decision is not final until it gets clearance from the State Board of Accounts as well as the approval of the Putnam County Council, which next meets on Tuesday, June 19.