City officials to consider switching ambulance service
Buchanan County officials are considering whether to hire a service, create an ambulance district, or to buy the existing ambulance service
St. Joseph News-Press
BUCHANAN COUNTY, Mo. — Buchanan County held a public hearing Monday to consider its options and receive a recommendation from the committee examining the future of ambulance service in the county.
The county took no action during the 30-minute meeting, preferring to listen.
Heartland Health, which is exiting the ambulance business, submitted the last of its ambulance financial data well before the deadline Monday.
But the county still has some financial questions for Heartland Health and will be talking with them on Tuesday, said R.T. Turner, Buchanan County's presiding commissioner.
Community Ambulance Response to Emergencies, known as CARE, voted last Thursday to recommend as the best option that the county purchase the current ambulance service in full, said Scott Meierhoffer, a committee co-chairman.
About 40 people attended Monday's public hearing on how to replace Heartland Health's ambulance service.
The current ambulance service is operated by an independent board of directors known as the Regional Emergency Medical Service Authority, or REMSA, Mr. Meierhoffer said. This is a non-profit corporation, he said.
Dwight Scroggins, county prosecutor and committee co-chairman, explained that three options were considered and all three are still on the table.
One option is to hire an independent contractor to run a similar service. Only two companies submitted a bid to provide the service. The cost for a similar service would be between about $1.1 million and $2.4 million.
The second option is to create an ambulance district operated by an independent board of directors using about a half-cent sales tax.
The third option is to buy the existing ambulance service.
All three options are still available to the county commissioners, Mr. Meierhoffer said. But the committee believes the ambulance service should be a county responsibility, he said. The committee recommends REMSA be acquired by the county and a sales tax to operate the ambulance service should be on the November ballot, Mr. Meierhoffer said. Finally, the committee recommends the tax not exceed a half cent, he said.
Having an additional half-cent sales tax could cut down on local sales, said Don Sherwood, a local citizen who attended Monday's hearing. Merchants could lose money, Mr. Sherwood said.
Mr. Meierhoffer said the committee was aware of this possibility but it all comes down to having the ambulance service or not.
Voters can decide in November, he said.
The county commissioners must decide before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and notify the county clerk about putting an issue on the ballot for the November election.
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