Arbor Vitae town officials will be talking to Oneida County's emergency management director, Ken Kortenhof, in the near future regarding ambulance service.
That was the outcome of the July 5 town board meeting, in which Kortenhof visited with the town board about the matter.
'We're going to do this'
Rising costs for the town in the area of ambulance service prompted the move toward theformation of its own service.
In 2011, the town paid $45,000 for ambulance service. In 2012, it jumped to $73,500.
In 2018, it'll be $78,000, according to town clerk Mary Reuland.
At Arbor Vitae's annual meeting in April, electors voted to spend no more than $150,000 to establish an ambulance service.
The possibility of an Arbor Vitae ambulance service has been discussed in certain circles for some time.
The move to bring it before electors in April was hastened by a decision announced at a Feb. 7 meeting of the Three Lakes Town Board.
That town's ambulance service and the Sugar Camp ambulance service would be combined to provide full-time ambulance service.
A few days later, Arbor Vitae's town chairman, Frank Bauers, told his fellow board members the change with the Three Lakes/Sugar Camp ambulance service merger would quite likely mean another increase for Arbor Vitae to around $107,000 annually.
"That's about 8.25 percent of our total budget," he said.
The proposal for an ambulance service given to electors at the April annual meeting called for a minimum of eight certified emergency medical technicians.
It also called for a possible startup of the service in January 2018.
The training to become an emergency medical technician, however, is intensive and takes time.
Before Wednesday's meeting, Bauers noted it's already July. He personally held out little hope an early 2018 start date would be be possible.
"We're going to do this, but I want us to look good," he said, noting there are only four EMTs currently on the Arbor Vitae fire/rescue roster.
'I think it's been good in the past'
At the beginning of the discussion, Bauers said he talked to Kortenhof and Woodruff town chairman Mike Timmons about the ambulance issue a few months ago and Kortenhof was present at the meeting to "lay it out to the board."
"Go through what you had told us before," he told Kortenhof.
Kortenhof said Oneida County wants to continue ambulance service for the Arbor Vitae area.
"I think it's been good in the past and I would like to continue it in the future," he said.
Kortenhof said he'd been given authority by Oneida County's public safety committee to negotiate "some differences in how we charge you and come up with some caps and stuff like that."
"I know you guys have talked about starting your own ambulance service," he said. "You know, I don't think you should throw that out the window. I think there are some possibilities of us working together and having another rig in this area."
Kortenhof asked if it would be possible to meet with Bauers, fire chief Mike Van Meter and rescue chief Stan Lewis and reiterated he doesn't think having another ambulance in the area was a bad idea.
"We realize that," Bauers said. "Stan would be the guy, the head of our first responders, who drew up the plan, laid the plan out and everything."
It was Lewis who made a presentation regarding a possible Arbor Vitae ambulance service at the February town board meeting and again at the annual meeting in April.
"But this is July and we don't want to lose the service we've got," Bauers said. "I don't think we can get an ambulance (service) up and running that quick."
Volunteer system not working
"I think maybe with some ideas we can throw at each other, maybe a second ambulance can be a way to go," Kortenhof said. "The reason our costs have gone up so much is ... obviously, you guys saw a spike when we started the Nokomis ambulance."
He explained an ambulance was placed at that location because there wasn't a way to get a backup ambulance at Howard Young Medical Center.
"Well now, we're having that same problem on the east side of the county," Kortenhof said. "The Sugar Camp/Three Lakes area. Our volunteer departments just aren't working. We have to do something different."
He said what's being done in the Sugar Camp/Three Lakes area might be something for Arbor Vitae to consider.
"If our main ambulance is out, our Three Lakes ambulance does have a crew that can come and take another ambulance on a call," Kortenhof said. "So, we're not leaving them completely empty up there. Again, it depends on how many volunteers they have. That really is the problem."
Bauers said the hope for the Arbor Vitae ambulance program is to start it out with 10 EMTs.
"As it got explained to some of the people that had volunteered to train the requirements - the hours - to become an EMT, some of them kind of shied away from that a little bit," he said.
"That's understandable," Kortenhof said.
"I think it's something we can accomplish in the future," Bauers said. "It would be good to have two ambulances in this area."
"The expensive part isn't the equipment," Kortenhof said. "It's the people to run it. I look at you guys up here and you have such a good fire department and have for a long time. Are you pulling from those people again? Because eventually, you're going to wear them out. That's what we see happening in Sugar Camp and saw it starting to happen in Three Lakes. Those are your volunteer firemen and first responders. You need to take care of them."
Bauers said coming up with the volunteers to be EMTs is where Arbor Vitae was now with its ambulance program as far as staffing.
"We still have the authority to spend the money to start our own ambulance service," he said. "But I'm not gonna start it if we only have half a dozen EMTs."
Bauers said he would be in touch with Kortenhof and set up another meeting on the issue in the future.
Patrol truck sold
On another matter, the town board accepted the only bid received, just over $46,000 from the town of Franklin, for its 2004 International single axle patrol truck.
The truck will be replaced by a 2017 Kenworth approved by the electors in April. It will be the third Kenworth in the town's patrol truck, or snowplow, fleet.
The town board received authorization from voters to spend up to $170,000 for a new truck.
With this sale, Bauers said the new truck is expected to cost somewhere in the $160,000 range.
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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