News of the White County Ambulance’s downgrade swept across social media yesterday and discussions regarding the proposed public safety tax have gotten heated as we inch closer to Election Day. White County Ambulance Service Director Adam Allen and I visited Thursday afternoon for a comprehensive discussion that covers some history of the service, just how we got to this point, what will happen if the tax doesn’t pass, the role Deaconess plays and just how much to blame is the county board for the predicament.
When asked, what will happen if the tax doesn’t pass, Allen says, “They’re gonna downgrade us to a BLS Service, our paramedics that we have will leave (I don’t expect anybody to stay for $3 an hour), and then other people are going start seeking a steady paycheck. Like I said, that was 2 weeks ago and in lieu of the tax, but the downgrade of the service happened yesterday so we’re behind the eight ball that much more. Ya know, I was thinking that could happen 2-3 months down the road and it’s happened just now.”
Allen says the tax is estimated to bring in about half a million annually, which he expects will be enough moving forward to remedy the issue.
Months ago, a county board member approached Deaconess to potentially take over the service. Negotiations went on until recently when the medical corporation withdrew their proposal. Allen tells us about that process.
“We went into negotiations with Deaconess and they proposed that we [the Ambulance Service/County Board] pay an annual subsidy of $264,000. They wanted to take possession of our ambulances, the equipment that we just bought over the past 2 years, along with our overstock of medications and other supplies to provide 2 paramedic trucks in the county 24/7. The county didn’t have the money for the subsidy, number one. And they weren’t seeing eye to eye with the proposals. There were multiple meetings with negotiations and Deaconess just decided that they weren’t close enough to continue with negotiations so they backed out but stay on as our MedControl.”
If you’re following along, Deaconess was offering to handle the service 24/7 for an estimated $264,000 per year. Because of the breakdown in communications on that front and Deaconess withdrawing their offer, now the Ambulance Service is proposing a tax that will cost taxpayers half a million a year. The county board will most certainly have to answer for that at some point. You’ll be able to hear the entire interview coming up Monday morning at 9 on 92.1 FM WROY and AM 1460.