Ambulance funding approved

The Tucker County Commission voted Wednesday to give the county’s Ambulance Authority Board $40,000 to carry the agency through the next 90 days.

The money is earmarked as $20,000 for a 40-cent hourly raise for employees for the year and $10,000 for additional ambulance coverage for 90 days.

Larry Armbruster, Ambulance Authority Board spokesperson, said the board met July 1 in a special meeting to produce a revised budget, which they approved.

“The first thing I will say is the budget was passed with a resolution that it had to be revised in 90 days,” Armbruster said.

Armbruster said the budget is balanced, but it still needs to be tweaked.

“We made a provision for 90 days regarding personnel and salaries, namely to get additional coverage on the mountain and pay raises for the employees,” Armbruster said, adding that the board decided against cutting services or closing one of the county’s three ambulance stations for budgetary reasons.

The County Commission refused to take action on the Ambulance Authority’s request for additional money during an emergency meeting June 28. The Authority did not provide an approved budget for that meeting.

The emergency meeting was scheduled after Ambulance Authority officials rejected several proposals by commissioners, including the county’s offer of $40,000 above current funding levels, at the June 26 commission meeting. Armbruster said at that meeting the Ambulance Authority had a deficit of approximately $96,000 in their planned budget for the next fiscal year.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Armbruster said he was still not happy with the budget, although it had been approved.

“I think there are some potential flaws,” Armbruster said. “Namely, the amount of medical insurance coverage for our people. I don’t think that is correct. I’m somewhat concerned about the utilities for all of our stations and I am concerned about buildings, grounds and maintenance of our fleet. I am also a bit concerned about the amount of provisions for the unemployment comp.”

Armbruster said he is concerned about a reducation in the inventory expense line item.

“Basically, that includes ambulance supplies,” he said. “I am a little bit concerned about our projected cash or billing. I feel it might be optimistic, but I can live with that for 90 days.”

Armbruster said the only way the Ambulance Authority could go on was if the commission provided them a consultant to help them revise the budget and if they received more funding for the pay raises and additional coverage.

“Contrary to our director, I am not necessarily satisfied with just 12-hour coverage in the upper part of the county,” he said. “I keep getting anecdotal stories that calls are missed or delayed. This occurs when a crew has to be called out. Even under the best circumstances, calling a crew out from home is going to delay a call. That is assuming that people will actually answer a call.”

Armbruster said there is no way to guarantee complete coverage.

“How many failures are we allowed to occur on missing ambulance calls? Is 50 percent acceptable? No. Is 25 percent acceptable? No. Where do we draw the line?” Armbruster said. “And that line gets drawn wherever somebody puts on a dollar sign.”

Commissioner Mike Rosenau said he was glad the Ambulance Authority approved a budget.

“Larry, in your talk to us, I am glad that things have changed,” Rosenau said. “I am glad you are not talking about closing station 2. I am glad you are looking at 24-hour coverage on the mountain instead of just the12 that you were talking about at the last meeting. I am glad for your revisions.”

Rosenau said the consultant who will come to Tucker County to help the Ambulance Authority is Bill Ellis from the state’s Emergency Medical Services.

Following the June 26 meeting, paramedic Sheila Marsh said that she was not part of the work crew that come up with the Ambulance Authority’s initial proposed budget.

“I was working on that date and was out with the ambulance all day,” Marsh said. “I also did not say there would be a second crew on for 24 hours but said there would be a crew on for 24 hours – that is state code.”

In other business, the County Commission:

  • Voted to purchase an upgraded budgetary computer system for the Tucker County Clerk’s office.
  • Voted to approve payment of $3,000 for work on the Veterans Monument.

The next meeting of the County Commission will be 6 p.m. July 24 in the Tucker County Courthouse Courtroom.