Commissioner sees services at odds
When Allen County commissioners voted Tuesday to rescind an $80,000 payment to support Iola’s ambulance service, Chairman Gary McIntosh considered it as a way to reopen ambulance discussions.
He also views it as a move “to help our efforts to improve the hospital,” McIntosh said. “The two are incompatible, the ambulance problem and what we’re trying to do with Allen County Hospital.”
Since December 2008, the city and the county have had separate ambulance services accounting for five vehicles within three blocks of each other.
McIntosh said he fears public discontent over the plethora of services for such a small population base will fester to the point it erodes public support for the hospital.
“People often tie the two issues together,” he said from comments he has received.
“We’ve frozen wages and cut services in the county, doing the most we can to be (financially) efficient, but I can’t look people in the eye and say we really are when we’re paying for two ambulance services,” McIntosh said. “That makes as much sense as having two hospitals.”
COUNTY commissioners were handed a preliminary budget Tuesday that called for a $1.33 million additional expenditures, totaling $13 million, and a levy increase of 14.885 mills to 79.398.
While commissioners intend to make reductions over the next two weeks, the only definitive action they took Tuesday was to cut the $80,000 Iola ambulance payment, the county’s responsibility for a mutual aid agreement between the two entities dated Sept. 23, 2008.
The agreement says that since the “… county has already instituted a countywide tax for ambulance service … It is agreed that the county shall pay the city the sum of $80,000 per year … beginning in the year 2009 …”
Elsewhere in the agreement is provision for termination by either party with written notice six months ahead.
County commissioners did not vote specifically to terminate the agreement, which sets out that each service will come to the aid of the other. City crews operate the county-owned rescue unit, stationed at the Iola fire station, which is dispatched to all accidents in the county and then call backed if it isn’t needed. Iola also has a hazardous materials unit, which may be dispatched anywhere in the county.