County receptive to ambulance merger

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July 27, 2011 - 12:00 AM

If Iola’s proposal to provide emergency medical services to all of Allen County is to go anywhere, the next step will be a citizens committee to examine issues in exacting detail.
Ron Conaway, Iola ambulance director, gave the same presentation to county commissioners Tuesday morning that city councilmen heard Monday night, reported in detail in Tuesday’s Register.
The city would provide ambulance service, including one ambulance stationed in Humboldt and Moran, and headquarter the service in the Iola fire station. The new county ambulance station at 410 N. State St. would become a storage and training area.
Conaway said about $700,000 a year could be saved with one service and a staff of 28; today the county and city together employ 40. Also, he said attendants trained in firefighting and public safety would be helpful in the two smaller communities by lending their expertise.
 IOLA MAYOR Bill Shirley said the proposal’s genesis was from conversations he had had with commissioners Rob Francis and Gary McIntosh. A few months ago he promised that resolution would be found to merge the two services before he completed his term in 2013.
“What would it cost us?” asked Commissioner Dick Works.
“The 3 mills you levy,” which will raise about $275,000 next year, “and income from the service,” said Conaway.
The arrangement, as Iola sees it, would have the county buy ambulances and equipment and the city provide personnel and administration.
“In the 1970s you (Iola) pleaded with the county to provide ambulance service,” Works observed. Then, when commissioners “saw a problem in delivery of the service (in later years when Iola firefighters alone operated ambulances here) we never had any discussions. You (Iola’s governing body) didn’t want to discuss it.”
McIntosh noted that the county had primary responsibility to provide ambulance service, under today’s state law, but developments of the past few years — Iola and Allen County with separate services — “cries out for us to come up with an answer.
“There has to be a mechanism for resolution of the problems” that led to the often contentious split, said Francis, noting that if a change occurred the county would insist on “a high level of service and equipment, which we have” now.
“I think we need to be humble and come up with an agreement,” McIntosh said,
“I’m happy to start the process,” Francis added. “I don’t think we’re too far from getting something done.”
“As I see it, that’s our intention, coming to you for discussions,” said Jim Kilby, an Iola councilman.
McIntosh noted that the county had primary responsibility to provide ambulance service, under today’s state law, but developments of the past few years — Iola and Allen County with separate services — “cries out for us to come up with an answer.
“There has to be a mechanism for resolution of the problems” that led to the often contentious split, said Francis, noting that if a change occurred the county would insist on “a high level of service and equipment, which we have” now.
“I think we need to be humble and come up with an agreement,” McIntosh said,
“I’m happy to start the process,” Francis added. “I don’t think we’re too far from getting something done.”
“As I see it, that’s our intention, coming to you for discussions,” said Jim Kilby, an Iola councilman.

McIntosh noted that the county had primary responsibility to provide ambulance service, under today’s state law, but developments of the past few years — Iola and Allen County with separate services — “cries out for us to come up with an answer.
“There has to be a mechanism for resolution of the problems” that led to the often contentious split, said Francis, noting that if a change occurred the county would insist on “a high level of service and equipment, which we have” now.
“I think we need to be humble and come up with an agreement,” McIntosh said,
“I’m happy to start the process,” Francis added. “I don’t think we’re too far from getting something done.”
“As I see it, that’s our intention, coming to you for discussions,” said Jim Kilby, an Iola councilman.

“WE HAVE to face reality,” McIntosh said later in the meeting. “Something has to happen,” although it is his analysis that Iola has a motive, keeping a full-time presence for its fire department. “That fine, I don’t want to hurt Iola. I represent Iola,” within his commission district.
County commissioners’ focus is a comprehensive ambulance service, and he is willing to compromise for the good of all in the county, said Francis.

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