Friday, August 10, 2012

Ketchum to get new ambulance

Tentative district budget approved


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum Fire Department should get a new ambulance this year, as the Blaine County Ambulance District approved the full cost of approximately $148,000 in the tentative fiscal year 2013 budget.

The Blaine County Ambulance District—also the Blaine County Board of Commissioners—approved the district's tentative budget on Tuesday morning, including $153,000 in capital funds for a new ambulance and other equipment.

Ketchum Fire Department Chief Mike Elle said during a budget hearing on June 20 that the existing ambulance, a 1997 Chevrolet, is in desperate need of replacement. Elle said the national standard for ambulance replacement is at seven years, or 70,000 miles—both benchmarks that the vehicle has surpassed.

"We've spent a lot of money [on it]," Elle said during that meeting. "It has twice stranded us on the side of the road with patients on board. Thankfully, those patients weren't critical."

The department had applied for a grant to fund part of the ambulance's replacement cost, an estimated $147,500. However, Elle said during Tuesday's meeting that the grant had been denied. The department would try again next year, he added, but the vehicle needed to be replaced as soon as possible.

Part of the reason, he said, is that standards for ambulances will change in January 2013. The new standards would add $20,000 to the cost of any new ambulance, but a vehicle is excluded if purchased before that date.

The allocation for the ambulance is part of a 10-year plan for replacing ambulances for both the Ketchum Fire Department and Wood River Fire and Rescue on a rotating basis.

Elle and Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman thanked county Commissioner Tom Bowman for his assistance with that plan and the larger budget process, which they said is a huge step towards transparency among the contractors.

"I think the transparency has brought more trust between the contractors and the county, and I think [Bowman] has brokered that," Lassman said. "He has made us work hard for every cent, but it's caused us to look closer at our budgets and how we spend our money."

County Commissioner Larry Schoen said he has seen a change from when he was a Carey Rural Fire District Commissioner in the 1990s.

"I think with [Bowman's] previous experience in emergency services and this board's support of him acting as liaison, enormous strides have been made," he said.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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