Public hearing for ambulance district this week

by Josh McDonald
Staff Reporter | June 16, 2020 11:00 AM

WALLACE — The Shoshone Board of County Commissioners will be hosting a public hearing Wednesday afternoon to discuss, review and consider a petition that was filed requesting the BOCC to form an Ambulance District.

After recently receiving a petition with 73 signatures (23 more than the required 50) in favor of the creation of the new district, the BOCC spent the last week attending each of the incorporated community’s city council meetings to discuss the petition and request and comments.

BOCC Chairman Mike Fitzgerald explained the need for the meetings and how, should the new district be approved and created, the cities and the county would need to put in place a new contract for the cities to have ambulance services.

“The purpose of the meetings with the cities was to present to the cities the major ‘as proposed by the petitioners concepts’ for a new ambulance district,” Fitzgerald said. “As well as to inform the cities that the current agreement between the county and the cities to operate ambulance services within city limits would need to be reissued between the cities and an ambulance district board if an ambulance district is formed.”

The new ambulance district is being sought after the Shoshone County Emergency Medical Services Corporation (EMS Corp.) submitted a letter to the BOCC announcing their intentions of dissolving the EMS Corp. at the end of May.

The BOCC requested and was granted an extension by the EMS Corp., who has given them until the end of September to figure out their solution with the caveat of adding an extra $5,000 (for a total of $10,000 per month) to their monthly budget.

In its current form, the bulk of local ambulance services are carried out through a series of service agreements between Shoshone County, the EMS Corp., Shoshone County Fire District No. 1, Shoshone County Fire District No. 2 and neighboring counties.

The petition itself calls for no changes to the types of responses and level of care currently given, personnel, licensures, equipment, coverage areas and financial support for the extended-rural ambulatory needs.

The proposed ambulance district would have an elected board that would be responsible for program and contract administration, the fiscal responsibility of the district and oversight of its operations.

While the petition is still in its infancy, the question of dollars and cents is really the one that tends to determine whether something passes or fails.

The most recent Shoshone County budget allotted $86,600 annually for the EMS Corp.’s operation, which is roughly $40,000 less than the amount that was allotted for it five years ago.

The initial plan was to reduce the amount from the county each year as the EMS Corp. had hoped to be self-sustaining, but too many unpaid bills has left them in a large hole.

According to Idaho code, the new ambulance district can levy up to 0.02% from the population however, as proposed, the amount to be taxed will be what is necessary to maintain the current level of service.

That amount would likely be right around $125,000 per year, which is basically the current budget amount of $86,600 plus the additional $10,000 month for the last four months of this fiscal year.

“The commissioners are very proud of Shoshone County’s ambulance services and, moreover, the dedicated professionals who carry out the work,” Fitzgerald said. “The BOCC looks forward to learning more about the community’s views on the current ambulance services and the petition form a new ambulance district.”

A hearing has been scheduled on this petition for Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. at the Shoshone County Courthouse in the Commissioners Conference Room.