Following the results of the Aug. 6 special election where Prop. Ambulance failed by a 3-1 margin, Lincoln County Ambulance District (LCAD) Chief Ray Antonacci had promised to take steps to gather more public feedback on the proposals being put forward by LCAD.
The first step in this process, dubbed the Pulse 2020 Listening Tour, occurred on Oct. 22 with the first meeting between community members and LCAD.
Prop. Ambulance was a proposed tax increase to help fund the growth of the ambulance district. It would have authorized the Ambulance District Board of Directors to levy an additional property tax (not to exceed 35 cents per hundred dollars of assessed valuation) to provide funds for the support of the district. During the first Pulse 2020 forum, which was held in Troy, the fifteen members of the public participating in the meeting started by discussing the assumptions, rumors and apprehensions surrounding Prop. Ambulance and the district in general.
Points put forward included things like response times, wasting resources with transfers, collecting both property and sales tax, the proposition being poorly worded and asking for too much, and a lack of clarity on the Ambulance District’s needs.
Then the group got down to answering three questions posed by the ambulance district, the first of which was, “What might quality emergency management services look like?” One of the attendees, retired firefighter Chris Redd, said the ambulance district should have a good response time – at least seven minutes.
Mary Kate Kunza, who lives in the northwest corner of the county, said at the beginning of the meeting that it takes 20-25 minutes for services to reach them.
When discussing the first question, Kunza said the Ambulance District and Mercy Hospital Lincoln need to collaborate more, and the district should be trained on what services are available in-county.
“Insurance only pays so much, Medicare only pays so much, and to be taken out-of-county, that cost comes out of our pocket,” Kunza said.
Brian Goin, A Moscow Mills man who works as a firefighter in St. Charles City, said that the coverage area needs to be improved for the response time to be lowered.
There are 640 square miles in Lincoln County, with five ambulances, 10 medics and EMTs, and one battalion chief active on average. The district will be adding another ambulance in November, with two more medics, for a total of six vehicles.
“And that’s ridiculous,” Goin said. “We have four ambulances in the city of St. Charles alone. Four. And they’re hopping.”
For the second question, attendees were asked to write down the general thoughts that come to mind when thinking about the Ambulance District.
The different attendees shared compliments and criticisms of the ambulance district, from praising the EMTs and paramedics to saying the there is confusion around how the district collects its tax revenue.
Redd said the district did a poor job of public relations in the Aug. 6 election, that it needed to do a better job explaining things to people. He encouraged the district to actively seek out groups like the Lion’s Club and VFWs and explain the district’s needs to those audiences.
Local resident Thom Artru spoke up, and pointed out that there were several town hall style meetings that occurred prior to the Aug. 6 election, but there was poor attendance at each. He also discussed the visibility of Prop. Ambulance on social media, and how the information coming from social media was not always accurate.
For the third and final question, the district asked, “What might be some concerns you or your friends or family have about the Lincoln County Ambulance District?”
Resident Jon Schroeter said there is a lack of a master plan to deal with how to service the growth of the county and support not just the Ambulance District, but the fire, sewer and water and other services in the area.
He added later that he had a concern, stating the median income in the county is stressed, and that there hasn’t been a big growth of income in the last several years.
“It’s been hard, it’s getting harder, and to ask them to pay more is a real hard sell, and it just cannot continue on the backs of the residential homeowners,” Schroeter said.
Tammy Dobbs said she’s also heard concerns about how Prop. Ambulance would start the process of building new buildings.
“And a lot of people were wondering why they couldn’t utilize some existing – not all – but some existing buildings that were vacant,” Dobbs said.
The session concluded after about an hour and a half of discussion. At the end, event facilitator April Bryant said the district plans to hold future discussions in Winfield, Elsberry, Auburn and Hawk Point. Residents in those areas can sign up by emailing LCpulse.firstname.lastname@example.org. The Ambulance District is only holding the events if enough people sign up to hold a discussion, and at press time the Hawk Point meeting still needs a few more people to register.