Panel defers ambulance service request
Cost exceeds what county budgeted for it by $38,000
BENTONVILLE — Officials heard Tuesday ambulance service in northeastern Benton County will cost about $38,000 more than the $95,000 the county budgeted for 2017.
The Finance Committee asked Brenda Guenther, comptroller, work with the Northeast Benton County Fire Department to document the department’s budget, expenses and anticipated revenues for the remainder of the year and report back to the justices of the peace.
“It would be nice to get us all on the same sheet of music,” said Mike McKenzie, justice of the peace for District 1, which includes much of the area around Garfield covered by the NEBCO Fire Department’s ambulance service.
Fire Chief Rob Taylor told the committee the department is using the $95,000 allotted to it by the county to operate a second ambulance. Taylor said the money received from membership dues assessed to residents supports the rest of the department’s operations.
“Running that ambulance service cost us about $523,000 a year,” Taylor said. “The $95,000 from the county goes to run the second ambulance.”
Taylor said the second ambulance fills a critical role for NEBCO and surrounding areas. If the department’s primary ambulance is sent on a call, he said, the area is without coverage if the second ambulance isn’t available. Taylor said the second ambulance is in service four days each week.
“An ambulance transfer up there is about two hours long,” Taylor said. “So that area up there, if we have an ambulance in service, they’re without coverage for that two hours. It’s critical that we try to keep that second ambulance in service on days when we can.”
Joel Jones, justice of the peace for District 7, said he wants to see more detailed information on the issue and supported McKenzie’s suggestion to delay consideration of the request while Guenther works with the NEBCO officials.
“I like Mike’s idea, that we get together and try to figure this thing out,” Jones said.
The committee endorsed NEBCO’s application for a state grant to help pay for a new fire boat to serve on Beaver Lake. According to information provided to the committee, the department has raised about $238,000 of the cost of the boat, estimated at about $346,000. Taylor said the new boat will have firefighting and medical emergency capabilities.
“It will be an ambulance on the water,” Taylor said.
Guenther said the grant is made available through the Arkansas Rural Community Grant Program, which has a pool of about $600,000 available for grants. The committee approved sending the grant to the Committee of the Whole. A similar grant application, for $15,000 for a fire boat for the Highway 94 East Fire Department, was also sent to the Committee of the Whole.
Also Tuesday, County Judge Barry Moehring and Barb Ludwig, human resources administrator, reviewed a number of personnel and wage changes for several departments. Moehring stressed the changes in departments under his budget “are budget neutral or less” for the rest of 2016 and the costs shouldn’t increase for 2018. Ludwig said the costs of all of the changes are covered in the 2017 budget.
“The net total savings is $105,877,” Ludwig said.
The proposed changes were forwarded to the Committee of the Whole which is set to meet at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Quorum Courtroom in the County Administration Building.