The Iola City Council and Allen County Commissioners have moved one step closer to an agreement regarding an EMS merger.
The two governing bodies agreed to form a sub-committee to generate ideas for a proposed merger, which they will then submit to the rest of the groups. The decision came Monday night during a special meeting in the Creitz Recital Hall at the Bowlus. The committee will consist of all three county commissioners and two members of the city council — they will be appointed at Monday night’s council meeting.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” council member Scott Stewart said referring to the committees.
The goal of the small committee is to answer questions brought to the table regarding the merger, as well as to formulate a proposal that both the council and commission can examine and build off of.
Commissioner Dick Works said his goal is to have answers for the committee by April, before the county’s budget is completed by June. Therefore, he said whichever merger is agreed upon will be ready for the new year.
DURING THE MEETING, the council and commission discussed what an ideal EMS service would look like.
The moderator for the meeting, Fred Heismeyer, listed different aspects as they were given to him.
While no specific agreement was made, all members could agree that Allen County needs to have an adequate amount of coverage all the way from Iola and Humboldt, to Moran and Savonburg.
“What it boils down to is getting out there and getting the best care you can get,” council member Nancy Ford said.
Works also mentioned the possibility of increasing the number of first responders, transported by a smaller vehicle such as an SUV or truck, to arrive on the scene of an emergency more quickly than an ambulance may be able to.
The members of both bodies agreed that Allen County needs good coverage, a type-I ambulance service and cost-efficiency for the benefit of taxpayers.
Then, Heismeyer asked the question.
“So, what are we not agreeing upon,” he asked.
“Who is holding the ball,” Commissioner Tom Williams said immediately. “I think everything else is agreed upon.”
Williams said in the past, when the county contracted EMS services to the city, no entity had control over any type of service.
“There has never been true control,” Iola Fire Chief Donald Leapheart said when asked about the former arrangement.
Works said he believes a public safety board “has some merit.” He proposed that the board would ultimately be appointed by the commission, composed of local medical professionals and authorities.
Council member Stewart then submitted his proposal for a merger, typed out in six points.
“It is something I have cooked up in my mind, based on conversations we have had in the past,” Stewart said.
His proposal included:
— An EMS board comprised of health professionals
— An EMS director whose salary is split between the city and county
— Moving ambulance station 35, currently based in Iola, to Humboldt and moving the Allen County Volunteer Fire Department into the current ambulance station on North State Street
— Exisiting Iola Fire Department employees would retain responsibility for ambulance coverage labeled in the area RFD 2 — a rural area north of Iola.
— Humboldt and Moran would be staffed by current personnel
— The number of first responders would increase, especially in the Elsmore/Savonburg area
Works submitted his own proposal as well, which matched up with the first two points of Stewart’s proposal.
Iola City Administrator Carl Slaugh said the EMS merger sub-committee would be added to the agenda for Monday’s city council meeting.
Council Member Don Becker urged the members present to expedite the process to get discussions and progress moving in the right direction.
“We can’t wait too long to start,” he said.