Ind. town denies request for third ambulance

If a 911 call comes in for emergency medical care, often services must come from surrounding town, due to a lack of rigs


Chris Morris
The Evening News and The Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.

FLOYD COUNTY — Brad Striegel said the argument whether a third ambulance is needed in rural Floyd County is an easy one to make. All you have to do, he said, is drive past Greenville Elementary School.

"There is no other school underserved as much as Greenville," he said.

Not in the way of quality teachers or opportunities, but the school is underserved in emergency services offered in the area. All other schools in the New Albany Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. are protected by dedicated ambulance service. But Greenville, not as much.

An all-volunteer fire department serves Greenville even though the town is hoping to become a fire district this year, which would allow around the clock staffing. If a 911 call comes in for emergency medical care, often New Chapel ambulances must come from Georgetown or Charlestown Road. Fire departments from Lafayette Township and Georgetown Township often respond to Greenville calls. Striegel said that could take five or 10 extra minutes for emergency personnel to arrive and those are minutes someone in a medical emergency may not have.

"There is a definite need out here," Striegel said of the Greenville area. "They [fire service] are total volunteer out here. There are times they may not have trucks rolling, which causes services to be delayed. That puts people's lives at risk and we can do better than that."

A proposal to fund a third New Chapel ambulance to be located in Greenville for $66,000 for the remainder of the year was rejected by the Floyd County Council by a 4-3 vote last week. But the measure may come back for another vote next month.

Councilman Adam Roberts said he could not vote to add another ambulance — and spend $66,000 — without some kind of statistics to support the need. He said just by having someone say it is needed is not good enough.

"The safety of the citizens of Floyd County is always first and foremost. As an elected official I must make educated decisions based on factual data, not simply emotions," Roberts said. "Emotional decisions many times result in unnecessary spending that puts extra burden on the taxpayers."

Roberts, Danny Short, Dale Bagshaw and Leslie Knable voted against the request while Striegel, Denise Konkle and Tom Pickett voted in favor.

Striegel said the money is there. He said there is $1.7 million in the hospital surplus fund. He said he also applied for a grant from the Floyd Memorial Foundation for $80,000 to fund a third ambulance for 2020. There is no guarantee that grant request will be approved. If Greenville approves a fire district this year, funding would not start until 2021.

The Greenville Volunteer Fire Department is seeking to increase its manpower and expand its services. It is facing a shortage in available volunteers, so it is collecting signatures on petitions from residents to support the creation of a fire district. The fire district would create 24/7 coverage with a paid staff. The department needs to collect at least 562 signatures before it can begin the approval process.

"To me this is our job, to make sure constituents out here are protected," said Konkle, president of the council. "We have a duty to put the ambulance in place, then deal with the fire district. I know it's a lot of money but I think we have an obligation to do this."

Konkle said she is gathering ambulance and fire run statistics from New Chapel to present "hopefully at the next meeting" to show the need in the Greenville area. Roberts said that is what he wants to see: proof.

"Without data that supports adding more services, no matter what the service is, makes it hard to justify the expense," Roberts said. "In this case it was a request for $70,000 of unbudgeted money in perpetuity. For these reasons I could not vote in favor of it."

Striegel said Yellow Ambulance dedicated three ambulances, based on call volume, when it provided service to Floyd County.

The Floyd County Commissioners already unanimously approved the measure last month, but it still had to be funded by the council.

If approved, New Chapel would provide 12-hour coverage in Greenville, seven days a week.

"The 12 hours of coverage are during the day ... to me it's the wrong model," Short said. "I think we are jumping the gun on this one."

Konkle admits it's a short-term fix until Greenville establishes a fire district which will fund full-time firefighters. But, she said, it's a fix that is needed.

"We have a school out here ... to me it's a no brainer," she said. "We can't leave kids unprotected."

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©2019 The Evening News and The Tribune (Jeffersonville, Ind.)

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