Rusk County officials are concerned a city proposal to begin charging ambulance garage rent could lead to other municipalities also charging the county.
The Ladysmith Police & Fire Commission met last Wednesday, again discussing the proposal to charge the county ambulance service for parking a rig in the city’s fire hall. The county charges the city’s police department $13,300 for rent and $7,000 for the reception area at the Law Enforcement Center, totaling about $21,000.
“We feel at this point in time we need to pass on some of these incurred costs for the city to the county,” Fire Chief Kyle Gibbs said. “All our budgets are tight. If we could get something.”
Rusk County Administrative Coordinator Andy Albarado told the commission the county provides the service, and the municipality provides the garage space. There are four ambulances. One each in Ladysmith, Bruce, Sheldon and Hawkins.
Rusk County Emergency Management Director Tom Hall, who oversees the ambulance service said he keeps an ambulance centralized in Ladysmith at most times as that is where most calls originate. He said this results in improved service in Ladysmith, noting response times of 10 minutes when an ambulance is in the city compared with 40 minutes if EMTs must respond from another municipality.
Gibbs told Albarado and Hall the fire department is also called 40 to 50 times per year to ambulance calls requiring lift assistance for patients, which he cited as another cost to the city. This is roughly 6 percent of the 851 ambulance calls in the city last year.
Commission member Rick Nash said the county can generate additional money through a half-percent sales tax, while the city cannot.
“It is not fair that it costs the city taxpayers and not the county taxpayer,” Nash said.
Hall said if the ambulance service can’t use the city fire hall the county would have to buy a facility to park the ambulance.
The county recently approved and is taking applications for a new paid on-call ambulance service so EMTs are on-staff from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. There were 14 applicants for two positions, paying $14 per hour with county benefits.
This change from all-volunteer to paid EMT service adds $440,000 to the ambulance budget, according to Hall.
Nash called $6,000 rent reasonable. “This is very nice here. This is a reasonable start,” he said.
“If we have $6,000 here I have to budget for $24,000,” Albarado said.
“We are pretty sure there is going to be a fee,” Commission Chairman Cora Schultz said.
“Other towns will then charge,” Hall said.
The decision to charge rent might not fall to the police and fire commission. It may be a decision that must be made at city hall through the property committee and finally by the city council.