March 3, 2024

Bank closes the Jeannette EMS building while the state health department plans talks with the agency

A bank is trying to take over the Jeannette EMS station to cover a $340,000 debt.

KeyBank filed the mortgage foreclosure action Wednesday in Westmoreland County court claiming that the ambulance station on South Sixth Street had defaulted on repayments of a $275,000 line of credit issued in 2008.

The agency used the station and property as collateral to increase the line of credit from $200,000 to $275,000, according to the court filing.

Jeannette EMS closed without notice July 3, in apparent violation of state law that requires at least 90 days’ written notice to the state Department of Health of an intention to discontinue service.

A department spokesman said the EMS Act and related regulations require an ambulance agency to provide advance notice to the department, 911, the regional EMS council and members of political subdivisions within its service area.

The relevant regional council was informed on 3 July. A spokesperson said the department planned to “contact” Jeannette EMS.

The unexpected shutdown left city officials scrambling to implement an interim plan to ensure residents had ambulance coverage. Penn Township Mutual Aid and Ambulance covered the city for 10 days until the Council approved an agreement with Mutual Aid July 13 to provide ambulance service in Jeannette by the end of 2023.

John Nobbs, an attorney with the law firm Bowles Rice, said the closing process for a nonprofit ambulance agency could take more than a year. He worked through those moving parts to help Rescue 14 in Adamsburg when it closed in 2021 and merged with Mutual Aid.

The agency’s board of directors must vote on a liquidation and dissolution plan to begin the closure process, Nobbs said. It was not clear if Jeannette EMS board members took that vote. Board members could not be reached on Wednesday.

The plan must be sent to the state Attorney General’s office and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office said Wednesday that the agency from Jeannette EMS had no plans to provide a reporter.

After the plan is finalized, Nobbs said the nonprofit agency can collect any money owed and sell assets to pay liabilities.

“Depending on what assets they have, they may or may not be able to meet all of their liabilities,” he said.

If an agency has extra cash and assets, state law requires them to distribute it to another charitable entity, Nobbs said. That’s where the Attorney General’s office gets involved in making sure that process is followed.

The line of credit was opened in July 1997 for $25,000 and ballooned over the years. A judgment was issued against Jeannette EMS July 13 to pay KeyBank $339,904 in unpaid principal and interest and late fees, according to court filings.

The other principal is $231,500. The interest is $105,000 as of July 6. The late fees were about $3,500. The bank is asking for additional interest and late fees starting July 7.

Jeannette EMS director of operations Randy Highlands could not be reached Wednesday.

The ambulance service was in business for 63 years before it closed. Highlands previously cited insufficient funding and low insurance reimbursement rates as reasons for the closure.

The city provided $1,000 per month to Jeannette EMS and will continue that financial arrangement for Mutual Aid, making Jeannette the first municipality to provide direct financial support to the Greensburg-based agency.

Jeannette EMS fielded an average of 1,800 calls per year. Mutual Aid serves 33 municipalities, including Jeannette – 28 in Westmoreland County and five in Fayette. The agreement with the city will be re-evaluated towards the end of the year.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta by email at rsignorini@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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