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Floyd County supervisor offers plan to continue ambulance service

By Bob Steenson,

A proposal presented by a Floyd County supervisor Monday morning would forgo immediate efforts to start a new public ambulance service in the county, in favor of continuing to subsidize the current emergency medical service providers for several more years.

Supervisor Chair Mark Kuhn presented his proposal as a discussion item at the board’s regular meeting, suggesting that county voters be asked in the Nov. 5 general election to authorize the collection of $400,000 in county property taxes annually for five years to support EMS service, particularly continued service by AMR ambulance.

Charles City Mayor Dean Andrews, who was at the supervisor’s meeting, said members of the Floyd County Ambulance Commission met a couple of weeks ago and “this is along the lines of what that group has been talking about.”

No official public meetings of that commission have been held since the spring. At the last official meeting almost all the discussion had been on the costs of starting a new public ambulance service.

But members of the commission along with other people have been gathering since then in numbers less than a quorum, so the gatherings are not required to be announced or open to the public.

Andrews said the group was getting together again Monday evening and he invited Kuhn to attend, but Kuhn declined, saying he did not want to be part of that gathering if it wasn’t open to the public.

Andrews said he was concerned that if the group wanted to make changes to Kuhn’s proposal he wouldn’t be there to provide input.

Kuhn said as the county’s newly appointed representative to the Floyd County Ambulance Commission, he would have input when that group meets in public as the commission and before it took any official action.

If approved by the Board of Supervisors to be put on the ballot, Kuhn’s $400,000-for-five-years suggestion would be used instead of a recommendation made in the spring by the Floyd County EMS Advisory Council.

The EMS Advisory Council was formed after the supervisors last year declared EMS an “essential service,” to begin the process of asking voters to decide on an EMS Support Levy. All the members of the group were appointed by the supervisors.

The members of the EMS Advisory Council had voted unanimously in April to recommend the supervisors place a question on the ballot asking voters to decide on a property tax levy of up to $776,000 for 15 years to support EMS.

That amount of money is the current maximum annual amount of property taxes that could be collected by Floyd County as an EMS Support Levy. Members of the Advisory Council agreed to that recommendation so the county would have the option to raise enough money to help start and support a new public ambulance service.

But that recommendation has never been formally presented to the supervisors, and they have taken no action on it.

Kuhn has said previously that he doesn’t think county voters would approve that large of a levy for that long of a time, and he would not support putting it on the ballot.

Included in Kuhn’s new proposal would be negotiating with AMR for at least one and potentially two additional three-year contracts at the same level of service currently provided, at a cost “to be determined.” The current AMR three-year contract with Floyd County and Charles City will expire on June 30, 2026.

If voters approve the suggested $400,000 annual EMS Support Levy, the money “would be used to pay the final year of the current AMR agreement that expires on June 30, 2026, and provide a dedicated funding source for an additional three-year extension of the AMR agreement through June 30, 2029,” Kuhn said.

“There are four entities that need to agree to compromise and work together to secure passage of an EMS tax levy ballot question that Floyd County voters would approve,” Kuhn said. They are AMR, the Charles City Council, the Floyd County Board of Supervisors and the Floyd County Medical Center Board of Trustees.

Currently the county and the city are paying AMR $427,450 in the second year of the current three-year contract, divided equally between the city and the county. That figure will increase 3% to $440,273.50 in the third year of the contract.

The Medical Center Board of Trustees last year agreed to contribute $100,000 toward that cost in the first year of the contract, and then in April agreed to pay that figure plus the 3% annual AMR increase in years two and three – $103,000 in the current year fiscal and $106,090 next fiscal year.

Kuhn said an essential part of his proposal is that the Medical Center continue to support the subsidy for ambulance service, with the $106,090 scheduled to be paid next fiscal year “plus any percentage increase charged annually by AMR for the three-year extension of the AMR agreement.”

“The city, county and the hospital all have a vested interest in maintaining emergency ambulance services for the residents of Floyd County,” Kuhn said. “We must share the cost of those services.”

Kuhn said a proposal to maintain AMR as the ambulance service provider has “a much better chance of receiving the support of 60% of voters needed to approve passage.”

He said the only other person who had been told of his proposal was Charles City Council member Keith Starr, who is the chair of the Floyd County Ambulance Commission and a member of the Floyd County EMS Advisory Board.

“If the members of the Board of Supervisors agree this proposal is worthy of further consideration, Keith has agreed to put it on the agenda of the Ambulance Commission at a meeting to be held next week,” Kuhn said.

Both Supervisors Dennis Keifer and Jim Jorgensen gave their unofficial support to Kuhn’s proposal at the meeting Monday morning. The item wasn’t on the supervisor’s agenda as an action item and no vote was taken.

Also at the Monday meeting, the supervisors agreed to authorize the attorney representing Floyd County and six other Iowa counties to file a motion with the Iowa Utilities Commission to reconsider its recent decision approving the application for a permit by Summit Carbon Solutions to build a carbon dioxide pipeline through Iowa, including using eminent domain to force easements on land where property owners have refused to agree to easements voluntarily.

Kuhn said other groups were filing similar motions, and while it is almost certain the IUC will stand by its decision, since it had issued a 507-page document explaining it, it was important for the county to continue supporting its resolution that eminent domain not be used for this project.

He said the county’s cost would be one-seventh of the estimated $1,000 cost for attorney Tim Whipple of the Ahlers & Cooney law firm to file the motion.

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