By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer
BURLINGTON - The only "water ambulance" on the Ohio River and the rescue unit that runs it could be eliminated as Boone County hashes out its budget for the new year.
In budget meetings, County Administrator Jim Parsons asked Boone Fiscal Court whether they wanted to continue to fund Boone County Water Rescue. The department is slated to get $162,000 for 2004.
"I think we have to cut it or find a way to reduce our commitment to it," Judge-executive Gary Moore said recently.
While other agencies have water rescue units, Boone County is the only rescue team that has emergency medical technicians conducting routine patrols of the river. At least four law enforcement agencies patrol the river, but they do not have rescue capabilities.
"It's a great service," said Dan Maher, director of Boone County emergency management, which oversees the unit. "I don't think anyone would argue that it's not a needed service, but whether Boone County should be taking on that burden is the question."
The Boone rescue unit also serves Kenton County and Covington which each pay Boone $15,000 a year for the service.
Boone's mostly rural shoreline is about 42 miles long, while Kenton's developed riverfront is eight miles long.
Today, Maher, and rescue unit Capt. Dale Appel are scheduled meet with Parsons to discuss the county's options. The final decision will be made June 24 when Boone Fiscal Court votes on the proposed budget.
Boone's water rescue unit is made up of about 40 volunteer EMTs, divers and others who patrol the river Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May to September. Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr., whose agency has four boats with two patrolling the river on weekends, said the river needs more boat patrols, not less.
Covington's fire department has a boat and the Cincinnati Fire Department has two boats for firefighting and recovery. They respond to emergencies on the river,but only Boone has patrols with medical support.
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