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TRAA board makes offer to new executive director candidate; challenges await in fixing troubled city ambulance service

TRAA TROUBLES FOLO

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Republican Allen County council member Joel Benz has been picked to head up the embattled Three Rivers Ambulance Authority.

Members of TRAA's Board of Directors met Thursday, voting to offer the job of executive director to Benz.

Board members say agreement must be reached on issues such as salary and benefits before Benz can formally accept the offer.

Besides his stint on county council, Benz works part-time as a TRAA paramedic and serves on a local medical air ambulance crew with Parkview Health.

We're told Benz has agreed to give up those jobs and resign his spot on county council once he takes the TRAA executive director position.

Benz earned an MBA from the University of Saint Francis.

Long-time TRAA director Gary Booher had planned to stay in his post through the end of the year, but that changed on the heels of a September 7 Fort Wayne City Council meeting where Booher and the agency he managed for more than 30 years received strong criticism.

TRAA has had ongoing struggles staffing enough paramedics.

Current and former employees told ABC 21 low pay and morale issues are partly to blame.

For about a year, the city's EMS contractor has been out of compliance in making timely responses to calls for service, forcing outlying county fire departments to cover hundreds of runs in TRAA's service territory.

Gary Booher had said a large part of the local ambulance service's response time problems could be traced back to a national shortage of paramedics that was made worse by the pandemic.

Board members say Benz' experience providing direct care to patients in the field means he would bring unique talents to the table as director of the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority.

The TRAA board of directors says it is ready for Benz to start his new job as soon as possible.


Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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