The first public meeting to discuss Proposition Ambulance was held on July 16 at the Lincoln County Ambulance District (LCAD) Auburn Base.
Attendance was small, with the vast majority of the 10 or so people in attendance being LCAD employees or board members. Prop. Ambulance is a 35-cent, per $100 assessed valuation, property tax increase; if passed, the revenue from that tax will go into funding the betterment and growth of the LCAD for the next 30 years.
Since 2000, LCAD call volume has doubled due to an increase in population in Lincoln County of 18.5 percent – making it one of the fastest growing counties in the state.
The issue being presented is that LCAD’s budget hasn’t seen an increase with the growth.
“Right now, we are running our ambulances at their max capacity. We need three more ambulances,” Ray Antonacci, LCAD Chief Administrator, said.
And three more ambulances means not only the vehicles, but crews to man them and stations to house and dispatch them from.
At the meeting, Antonacci presented the five-year Capital Improvement Plan that would be enacted should Prop. Ambulance pass on Aug. 6.
The five-year plan is broken into three phases:
Phase I, contingent upon to passing of Prop. Ambulance, consists of constructing a new Moscow Mills base, constructing two new bases in the east and west parts of Troy to move medic units that currently respond from LCAD headquarters in the middle of the city to and hiring and training six full time paramedics to staff the new base in Moscow Mills.
Antonacci said that because two units are operating from headquarters in the middle of Troy, response time to Moscow Mills and Hawk Point aren’t what they should be. The three new bases proposed in Phase I would allow for a triangulation of bases around the central headquarters, making for a much quicker response time to outer parts of those areas.
Antonacci predicts that the placement of these proposed new bases could cut response time down from an average of about 12 minutes to eight minutes or less.
Phase II consists of a renovation and construction on LCAD headquarters to accommodate an improved, state-of-the-art training facility, fleet management areas and administrative offices.
Phase II includes re-instating Troy ambulance (Medic 7) and hire and train six full time paramedics for the Medic 7 base and normally-scheduled upgrades to vital equipment as well as new hardware and software to stay current and modern.
Phase III includes creating a Base 8. Antonacci said that that could be constructed on a property LCAD has at Highway Y and W, but that they would be continually watching population trends to ensure that in five years, that is still the proper location.
“Right now that looks like the best spot to be to respond north, south, east and west,” Antonacci said. “However we have to watch the population trends over the next four years.”
Another large aspect of Prop. Ambulance is the institution of Compassionate Billing.
“Something that I deal with on a daily basis is emails and phone calls from residents saying they can’t afford their ambulance bill,” Antonacci said. “We are a first responder, like police, like fire, and we want your tax base to be able to support the ambulance district alone without having to bill you personally.”
Antonacci said that a part of Compassionate Billing is billing the insurance company but working so that the individual who is taken in the ambulance would never see a bill.
“The reason we want to do that is because when you are having a heart attack or when your child has a burn or whatever it may be, you don’t want to be thinking ‘can I afford this trip?’” Antonacci said. “We want to be able to respond, take care of you and not have to worry about the latter. Why are [we] taking people in duress and billing them when we as a community could be paying just a little bit more in taxes, have far better emergency response and never having to worry about that surprise bill.”
(Next week’s issue will discuss some of the concerns residents of the county have with Prop Ambulance)
(Editor’s Note: The next will be on Aug. 2, at Elsberry Base 3, 902 New Hope Road in Elsberry, at 6:30 p.m.)