City, county resolve EMS issues

Iola City Council and Allen County Commission members have accepted terms of a contract that will extend the city's contract to offer ambulance services for all of the county through 2027. The pact ends months of tension during which it appeared the county would look elsewhere for countywide EMS.


Local News

November 9, 2021 - 10:52 AM

Iola ambulance crews work a wreck. Register file photo

After both sides said they were going their separate ways, the Iola-Allen County ambulance partnership will continue into 2022 and beyond.

Iola City Council members approved, 8-0, a five-year contract to continue offering emergency medical services for all of Allen County.

The contract — which would increase the county’s annual subsidy to the city from about $1.2 million to $1.65 million next year — went to the Allen County Commission this morning, where the contract was approved with a 2-1 vote, Jerry Daniels opposed.

The move comes just weeks before the city’s EMS contract with Allen County was set to expire Dec. 31.

In August, the county had announced its intentions to let the current contract expire, and would negotiate solely with AMR, a private ambulance company.

However, AMR later backed out of the negotiations after the city announced its intentions in September to operate a city-only ambulance service apart from the county system, pushing the two sides to quietly continue negotiations. The city’s decision to operate a city-only service had the full backing of the Iola Fire Department.

The first glimmer of a new pact took place Friday morning, when after meeting privately with their attorney, county commissioners said negotiations would proceed with the city.

That led to Monday’s 20-minute executive session with attorney Bret Heim, representing the city in the ambulance talks, before council members voted on the measure

The city’s countywide ambulance service is manned by Iola firefighters at stations in Iola, Humboldt and Moran.

On top of the increased subsidies for the city, which will increase 2.5% each year for year 2 through 5, the contract also has provisions ensuring ambulance stations in Humboldt and Moran remain staffed during transfers or “non-EMS activity” — a touchy point for county commissioners on occasion.

The 2.5% increase would bump up the county’s subsidy to $1,691,250 in 2023, $1,733,531 in 2024, $1,776,869 in 2025 and $1,821,290 in 2027.

AMBULANCE service for the city and county has been an occasionally touchy subject for more than a decade.

For the last quarter of the 20th century, Iola and Allen County had an agreement in which the county was responsible for EMS services outside Iola and paid for Iola firefighters to manage services for those within Iola limits.

A split occurred in 2009 after county commissioners announced their intentions to assume EMS responsibilities for all of the county. In response, the Iola officials started up a city-only ambulance service.

Wary of the costs of running duplicated services, including having ambulance stations just a few blocks from each other, the two sides reached agreement on a contract in 2013 in which Iola oversaw countywide EMS, a system that’s been in place since 2014.