Ambulance rep addresses concerns

Company under consideration for ambulance contract says it would hire local paramedics and EMTs if the county decides to make a change.



July 14, 2021 - 9:25 AM

Jason Jenkins of American Medical Response (AMR) meets with Allen County Commissioners Tuesday morning. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

What happens to Iola’s EMS employees if Allen County awards its ambulance contract to another party?

This was the main question asked of Jason Jenkins of American Medical Response (AMR) on Tuesday, the City of Iola’s primary competitor for the contract.

He explained that “any time we’re awarded a new contract, we depend on the folks in the community that currently hold the positions. … That’s where the expertise exists.”

And Jenkins continued, noting, “we don’t have paramedics and EMTs in a closet at headquarters that we’re going to fly out and put on ambulances.”

“Folks that are qualified, certified and meet our requirements, could have first priority if they are Allen County residents,” he said. “We have that set up in other locations.”

Rodney Burns, of Schlotterbeck and Burns, LLC, was on hand to go over the county’s budget with commissioners.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

“The expertise exists within the folks who have the positions currently,” he reiterated. “So we would have a strong desire to hire those people.”

When asked about handling emergency transfers by commissioner Bruce Symes, Jenkins said “if it falls within the parameters of what you want, … we will take those transfers, absolutely.”

And he added that “we have a good relationship with your hospital from an ‘air perspective,’ so we would work with them knowing that we would have both an air and ground component.”

“If a patient was extremely critical,” Jenkins noted, “we could offer an air resource if that’s something that they want.”

“It really is dependent upon the model that you want to develop.”

American Medical Response met with commissioner David Lee at length last week to go over details of their proposal. This week, it’s the City of Iola’s turn, with a decision coming in the next couple months regarding the contact.

Commissioners listen.

IN OTHER news, auditor Rodney Burns, of Schlotterbeck and Burns, LLC, was on hand to go over the county’s budget with commissioners, following reports by county department heads and local agencies which the county funds.

“This doesn’t look good off the bat,” he said, referring to the county initially being around $1.9 million over budget for the upcoming year.

What followed were a series of small, interrelated discussions on how to spend less, cut costs or raise more revenue.

If solutions cannot be found, special programs and initiatives such as those for transportation and beyond might get nixed.

After making a number of informal cuts, and having Burns quickly rerun the numbers, the excess was reduced significantly, but work remains to be done.

Hence, commissioner Lee suggested having county departments and funded agencies recalculate their budgets in order to see if reductions might be possible, for instance, by giving smaller salary/cost-of-living increases

“We’ll get there,” Lee said in reference to working out remaining budget kinks.

THRIVE Allen County’s economic development director, Jonathon Goering, said that members of the Iola PRIDE group were interested in building a splash park somewhere locally, especially if it could be located near the courthouse.

Commissioners mostly seemed wary of the prospect, however, and so did not advance the request.

Goering also presented commissioners with preliminary bids for conducting a labor study, the data from which could be used to attract businesses and industry, especially at the Allen County Regional Airport.

Commissioners continued to show interest, but wondered whether the costs of the study might be shared with economic development partners like the cities of Iola and Humboldt, as well as Iola Industries.

Another topic for discussion was the prospect of the county forming a land bank, in order to convert “problem properties” so as to improve their functionality, as well as simply advertise which properties were available for sale.

Atlas Community Studios will be in town next Wednesday and Thursday, Goering added, in order to hold public meetings and generate feedback on issues such as housing, economic development and building revitalization.

The public information meeting will take place 5 – 6 p.m. Wednesday at Allen Community College’s Stadler Room.

DURING his weekly report, public works director Mitch Garner said the county’s rock crusher is back at the landfill, but is still awaiting parts, namely springs that will allow the machine’s key to be removed from the ignition.

A second crusher that the county was going to borrow has not yet arrived, but the upshot is that the delay will allow more time for blasting out rock.

Garner likewise told commissioners they might want to purchase a smaller oil tank than originally anticipated (2,000-4,000 gallon vs. 6,000), since Humboldt and the county do not use the same type of oil to do road repairs due to differences in speed limits.