EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — East Cleveland resident Dawne Steele believes city fire and EMS personnel are doing the best they can, but when the city had to use a pick-up truck to make up for a broken ambulance, she voiced her concerns.
The unit has since been repaired and is back on the road.
But Steele said her family and other neighbors have dealt with EMS response time issues over the past five years and she's wondering why East Cleveland can't seem to keep pace with equipment repairs and replacement.
“Yes this is definitely a concern for me and my family even the residents my neighbors," Steele said.
“I pray to God, I don’t need them anytime soon. About the pick-up truck being used, I’m concerned why aren’t they getting the maintenance done on these vehicles in a timely manner.”
Ward 2 East Cleveland Councilwoman Juanita Gowdy voiced her concerns over the city safety budget during a May 20 zoom safety meeting.
Gowdy said more funding needs to be diverted to new safety equipment and maintenance, and she blamed the city administration for not bringing those dollars to city council for a vote.
She is demanding some of the $26 million in federal pandemic relief funds coming to East Cleveland in July be used for a new EMS vehicle and an improved maintenance plan.
“Life is at high risk when you don’t get the services that we need in our city," Gowdy said “It’s very urgent for our mayor to realize the lives of the people are in danger.”
“They should have things in the budget plan so it can get passed, but they don’t put it in the budget plan.”
“We are dealing with mismanaging money in East Cleveland and when we’re dealing with that, this is what happens.”
During last week's safety meeting East Cleveland Fire Chief David Worley acknowledged ongoing budget and safety equipment problems. They are problems News 5 has been reporting on since October 2016, when the city was without a working EMS unit after two units donated by the cities of Oakwood Village and Mayfield Heights broke down and had to be taken out of service.
Still, Worley applauded his department for keeping response times down and maintaining a high level of life-saving efforts.
“What we have is mutual aid, where we would call another city," Worley said.
“Unfortunately this is not the first time we have been put in this situation. Fortunately, though, you have a group of men who are used to adapting and overcoming.”
“Our resident's lives are dear to us, we don’t take this lightly, that’s why we have one of the highest rates when it comes to full arrest saves in the county. We have fast response times.”
Worley told News 5 he is working with East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King to put together a funding package for new safety equipment in the coming weeks.
Still, Steele is hoping East Cleveland will purchase a new EMS unit and other fire equipment in 2021, so the city won't have to rely on neighboring city safety forces unless it's a major emergency.
“So where’s the money, why aren’t these vehicles getting maintenance, these are the most important things," Steele said.
“Community residents here pay taxes, so why are we having to reach outside our area for help.”
Meanwhile, News 5 contacted King for this story, but we're still waiting for a response.