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BOCC approves funds for new ambulance

by JOSH McDONALD
Local Editor | March 17, 2023 1:00 AM

WALLACE — On Wednesday morning the Shoshone Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved the allocation of $150,000 from the East Shoshone Hospital District fund to the Shoshone County Ambulance Service District (SCASD).

Last year, SCASD requested $300,000, but was approved by the BOCC for $150,000 through the county’s $2.5 million allocation of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund program (CSLFRF) authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that was to be put toward the purchase of an ambulance.

The former BOCC couldn’t justify giving them the entire amount requested, stating that they believed other avenues could be taken to cover the additional costs.

This also was part of the BOCC’s strategy to spread the ARPA funds as broadly as they could.

The BOCC suggested to SCASD board chairman Bruce Van Broeke that the remaining funds for the ambulance come from the money sitting in the East Shoshone Hospital District fund.

Both sides agreed to that idea, albeit informally.

The East Shoshone Hospital District was a taxing district for residents on the east.

When the district was dissolved and the remaining money from the district was transferred to the county’s general fund in 2015, the total balance was $315,322 — this pot has fluctuated and been dipped into for things like medical training and other purchases related to “hospitals” and the county’s emergency medical services which kept with the money’s original purpose.

The fund also gets annually refurbished — very mildly — from things like old taxes being paid and revenues, as well as agricultural replacement tax dollars.

On Wednesday morning the fund had $171,519.85 according to Shoshone County Clerk Tamie Lewis-Eberhard.

Over the years, there has been much debate concerning those funds — with many residents of the eastern portion of Shoshone County believing that it was only right that funds be spent on something relatively exclusive to that end of the county.

However, once a taxing district like that dissolves and the money defaults back to the county (and into the subsequent general fund), it can’t be treated exclusively.

“I paid money into that district at one time too,” Van Broeke told the News-Press previously. “But that money plus the $150,000 from ARPA gives us enough for our second ambulance and I think that is a great thing for that money to go to.”

The remaining $21K and change earmarked as part of those funds will remain in place to cover any incidental costs that may arise in the county’s first responder realm.

The BOCC agreed with that thought process and commissioner Tracy Casady moved to allocate the money from the East Shoshone Hospital District to SCASD — seconded by commissioner Jeff Zimmerman and unanimously approved.

Van Broeke was in attendance during the meeting, along with SCASD board member Jim Shields. Shields is an emergency services veteran, with decades of experience as a first responder and as a dispatcher.

“We want to help the public the best way we can,” Shields said. “Let’s keep these guys rolling, these EMT’s and paramedics gotta have the equipment. There is nothing worse than getting stuck someplace and you can’t go on a call because your rig is broken down.”

SCASD purchased a new ambulance in 2022 that went into service just before the calendar flipped, it’s already had it’s first 5,000-mile service done to it.

Van Broeke has also secured $192,000 in federal grant money that is to go for another ambulance — which would give them three new emergency vehicles and complete their fleet.

The district currently has five ambulances in operation — one that just got a new motor put into it and three that have more than 150,000 miles on them.

The older ambulances can be decommissioned and stored for emergency use — or potentially be traded or sold in the future.

With new ambulances being 18 months out at their earliest, Van Broeke isn’t messing around getting them ordered.

He also doesn’t care what it takes, he’s going to keep them on the road as long as he can.

“We’ve never not made a call,” Van Broeke said. “That’s a pride thing for us.”