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Ind. officials reject ambulance service bid, debate EMS funding options

Floyd County Commissioners voted to pursue negotiations with AmeriPro Health as council members consider fire-based EMS


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By Brooke McAfee
The Evening News and the Tribune

FLOYD COUNTY, Ind. — The Floyd County Council is debating potential funding sources for EMS coverage, but opinions are mixed on which way to proceed.

The council met for a Monday workshop to discuss EMS funding.

Last week, the Floyd County Commissioners voted to pursue contract negotiations with AmeriPro Health. The Floyd County Council will have the final say on whether to fund a contract with the ambulance provider.

The commissioners rejected a bid from New Chapel EMS, the county’s current ambulance provider. The contract will expire at the end of May.

The agency did not provide the requested financial information in its bid, and it is facing scrutiny due to criminal charges against its co-founder, Jamey Noel.

Although the commissioners opted to negotiate with a private contractor, council members continue to examine options for a fire-based EMS service, including a proposal by Highlander Fire District.

The commissioners rejected a recommendation from Floyd County’s EMS advisory board to reject both bids from AmeriPro and New Chapel.

Floyd County Council President Danny Short said the county needs to look “one to two years out.”

“We’re all in agreement and I think most everybody listening is in agreement that we don’t want this privatized forever,” he said. “If we do this, it’s until something else gets up to speed.”

“We need to look one to two years out. How can we sustain it for a minimum of one year and a maximum of a three-year contract.”

The existing New Chapel contract costs an annual $220,000, while AmeriPro’s proposal is projected to cost about $1.5 million a year.

Short said his “first choice” would be using funds from the county’s Legacy Foundation, saying he would like to see the use of at “least the overage of what we don’t use every year.”

“That frees up a minimum of $350,000 per year,” he said. “There’s a start.”

Floyd County Council Member Denise Konkle said the county should explore that option, but that decision would be up to the Legacy Foundation’s board.

The county could also look into using a small portion of the foundation’s principal funds, which would not affect its grant-making, Short said.

“There’s still $750,000 in interest generated to grants that we only grant less than $500,000 a year, so it wouldn’t be affecting any of Legacy’s operations,” he said.

He said the foundation was created “for the betterment of the county.”

“What better way to serve the county than by subsidizing EMS,” Short said.

The council should also consider “commissioner buy-in” as a funding option, Short said.

“I’ve caught some signals that there would be some willingness to find some funds,” he said. “I’m not sure the depth of that, but I think the commissioners understand that they’re asking quite a bit of us.”

Floyd County Council Member Dale Bagshaw suggested temporarily using rainy day funding to cover the AmeriPro contract, which would only be for half a year in 2024.

“In my opinion, we should fund at least the end of the year through the rainy day fund as we start this process going through the negotiation of getting the EMS system in our county that everyone can be happy and pleased with,” he said. “I doubt that will ever happen, but we can work toward that end.”

Short questioned whether the county could consider adjusting benefits such as the Public Employees’ Retirement Fund.

Floyd County Council Member Jim Freiberger said the council could look into potential savings related to health care for county employees. He also suggested exploring excess riverboat funds but acknowledged that it would not be “big numbers.”

Konkle said she does not know how the county can fund AmeriPro without raising taxes in 2025 but suggested that the fire-based option would allow for funding without any tax increases.

“We have to provide a good service — excellent service — for the entire county,” she said. “But we need to do it with the taxpayers in mind.”

The council discussed Highlander’s proposed EMS option, which would cost $802,000 for the first year.

Konkle said Highlander will be receiving additional funding in 2025, including revenue related to recent changes in state law. The fire district will recover more than $1.1 million in miscellaneous revenue next year that it was not eligible to receive this year.

Highlander’s option does not include New Albany Township or part of Franklin Township. It would include two full-time ambulances and another for peak hours, as well as a fourth “surge truck.”

The AmeriPro contract calls for three ambulances and a paramedic response vehicle.

Floyd County Council Member Brad Striegel said the New Albany Township Fire contract with New Chapel includes both fire and EMS.

“The New Albany Township Fire Board contract says that they are understanding that they have a statutory duty to provide those services,” he said. “Either one of two things are happening: we’re having that box checked by the commissioners and they’re not paying for that, or New Chapel’s been double dipping. I don’t know which one it is.”

Floyd County Council Member Connie Moon criticized Highlander’s proposal due to the lack of countywide coverage and other concerns.

She also does not feel Highlander would be able to be “up and running” by June. She also has concerns that the department “does not play well with others.”

Moon said when Highlander “did have the ability to transport, they pick and choose who they are going to transport and not transport.”

“I don’t care if you have a bigger unit or if you have a better truck that is two years newer,” she said. “If you are not in it for the people, that’s where the issue lies. And there are people who are in it for the people... but you have to be a team player.”

Freiberger said he was disappointed that the commissioners rejected the Floyd County EMS advisory board’s recommendation.

He feels the county needs to still consider the Highlander proposal.

“I don’t think we can discard that,” Freiberger said.

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