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CHIEF DEFENDS PARAMEDIC AGREEMENT

The Salt Lake County-wide paramedic service should not be changed just because Salt Lake City officials are not happy with the system, according to Salt Lake County Fire Chief Don Berry.

Berry, while speaking before the Salt Lake County Executive Council on Monday, said, "The city is taking us to task about paying for paramedic services they say they aren't receiving. We don't totally agree." He said the 20-year-old project works well, and "I'd hate to see any disruptions."Berry concedes that Salt Lake City provides its own paramedic service but said the county will send paramedic units into the city whenever the need arises. "We have a mutual-aid agreement," he said.

"My recommendation is the paramedic service has been built around the regional concept and not political boundaries," Berry said. "Our service is based on population and call volume. We look at the whole county as a big picture. If it's not broke, don't try and fix it."

He said the present system costs less, citing as an example manufacturer discounts for buying equipment in larger quantities.

Salt Lake County provides the paramedic service to the unincorporated areas, as well as to all the county municipalities, except Salt Lake City.

Roger Black, director of management services for Salt Lake City, when interviewed later, said the city never has disputed the quality of the county's paramedic service, but "we do have problems with the way it's financed. We have a responsibility to our taxpayers to obtain equity in the financing of that service."

Black believes it's not fair to use the county's general funds, most of which are obtained from county-wide property taxes (including Salt Lake City) to finance a service that he says is not a countywide service.

"The county's paramedic service doesn't service a fifth of the county's population (Salt Lake City)," he said. "We roll into their area about the same as they roll into our area.