BOCC votes in favor of Ambulance District

by Josh McDonald
Staff Reporter | June 26, 2020 12:16 PM

WALLACE — On Tuesday morning, the Shoshone Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) passed a motion unanimously to create an ambulance district in Shoshone County.

After several months of meetings with local EMS groups, a signed petition from 73 concerned residents, and finally a public hearing, the BOCC’s decision signifies a potential change in the way that emergency medical services are managed in Shoshone County.

The only thing remaining is for the BOCC to officially pass a resolution, which needs the careful eye of the county prosecutor to make sure all of the necessary verbiage is in place.

Commissioner Mike Fitzgerald broke down what the district would look like during the public hearing on June 17.

“If you look at what’s happening, you can consider it as a shift in administration from the BOCC to an ambulance district, which would be run by a board,” Fitzgerald said. “There will be a lot of things that will remain the same, level of service, personnel and personnel types, licensures and recruitment. What we’re hearing is that people are very satisfied with our ambulance service in our community and they’d like to see it continue. There is no expectation of expanding services.”

There are some changes, but they are natural changes that appear to be par for the course in any sort of administrative shift.

Things like changes to programs and contracts are administered, fiscal accountability would shift from the BOCC and Shoshone County EMS Corp. and fall to the new ambulance district board, and then the board would also handle their operations and district oversight.

The EMS representatives who spoke during the public hearing were very supportive of the creation of the new district.

“After listening to the public the other day at the meeting, John Specht and I believe Bruce van Broeke both said it, that we have a very fine ambulance service and the only thing we’re hurting on is financing,” said Commissioner Jay Huber.

Once the BOCC’s decision is finalized, the county will have to fund the ambulance service in Shoshone County until the new district’s revenues and operations are fully implemented.

As far as costs are concerned, this new district will likely cost roughly $130,000 per year, but an official amount has not been officially set.

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.

The $130,000 was nearly the amount that was being levied for a few years ago before the BOCC began scaling back the amount they were annually levying for EMS services, including this year’s budget amount of $86,600, but after extending the Shoshone County EMS Corp.’s services for an extra $10,000 a month for four months, they’ll have dedicated $126,600 toward EMS services for the 2020 fiscal year.

The petition is being sought after the Shoshone County Emergency Medical Services Corporation (EMS Corp.) submitted a letter to the BOCC announcing its intentions of dissolving the EMS Corp. at the end of May, but was later extended to September at the behest of the BOCC.

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.

BOCC chairman Mike Fitzgerald admitted that the decision wasn’t an easy one for him, and he had to really think on what he thought was the best direction for the county.

“This is one that I’ve been wrestling with,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t like creating new layers of government. You have to ask yourself, is this the right thing to do? And this appears to be the right thing.”

Along with needing a signed resolution, the BOCC will also need to come up with a name for the new district, one that hopefully doesn’t create any confusion amongst the other EMS groups in the area.

The BOCC hopes to have their resolution signed by Monday, June 29, but must sign it by June 30 if it is to go into effect this year.