Commissioners differ on ambulance committee



November 23, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Larry Tucker told Allen County commissioners Tuesday residents of all Allen County towns should have a say in what happens with countywide ambulance service.
The Humboldt city administrator’s comments were prompted by talk that’s surfaced lately of a six-person committee —  three from Iola and three from the rest of the county — discussing a single countywide ambulance service, rather than one in Iola and another for the rest of the county.
Tucker has a dog in the fight. He wants to ensure an ambulance presence in Humboldt, especially since city council members are considering an upgrade of Humboldt’s ambulance station, perhaps in conjunction with the fire station.
“The ambulance station now is in the back of the old city hall,” where there isn’t much space, Tucker said.
Also, Humboldt is considering offering a deal to anyone who would open a business in the city hall — free rent and utilities may be part of the first year’s package.
Not to worry was Commissioner Dick Works response: “The county has the responsibility to furnish ambulance service to all of the county.”
Commissioner Gary McIntosh, who has vowed to work toward a solution to the “ambulance problem,” also was reassuring: “Nothing will happen if it’s not in the best interests of the county. I’m willing to have a study and let the facts say what is best.”
“I anticipate all of the county will be represented” in the study, added Commissioner Rob Francis.

IOLA AND Allen County agreed to put the ambulance issue on the backburner in favor of efforts to build a new hospital, with the provision that after Jan. 1 of this year a study committee of three Iolans and three from elsewhere in the county would be appointed.
McIntosh has pushed lately for the committee’s formation, but Works and Francis have said they wanted the hospital well along, including all financing in place, before shifting attention to ambulances.
At this point, it appears commissioners will pick committee representatives in late December. Iola Mayor Bill Shirley has said he would do the same when asked by commissioners.

WORKS ISN’T sure the committee’s structure set out in the Iola-county agreement is as it should be.
He noted that a committee of nine, representing all areas of the county, was successful in studying Allen County Hospital and others in the area before recommending a new hospital was needed here.
He thinks that approach would work well for ambulances.
Whether that will come about won’t be decided until later, and if it does it will have to be with Iola’s accord, because of an agreement that’s in place for a five-year moratorium on ambulance discussions.
Tucker said he was frustrated, “not knowing what might happen,” and with planning under way in Humboldt to improve fire and ambulance facilities.
“You won’t be without an ambulance,” McIntosh reiterated.

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