Fillmore reflects on bill that forces cities to cover ambulances
County officials said last week they fully plan to resume rescue truck operations along Interstate 15 after volunteers from the Fillmore Fire Department recently voted to end the supply of these services out of town on January 1.
However, new state legislation passed earlier this year could also solidify the status quo, forcing the county and city to agree that maintaining service within the Fillmore Fire Department is the best option to go from there. the front.
That’s because Bill 303, passed in the last legislative session, requires all towns and cities in Utah to now provide their own ambulance services. For Fillmore City, that means paying up to $ 150,000 per year for ambulance calls within the city starting soon.
The bill entered into force on May 5.
Previously, the county provided such services, and is likely to continue to do so, provided towns and villages either pay for them or trade in other services, such as rescue operations, in lieu of payment.
A lengthy discussion between county and city officials took place last Tuesday evening at a city workshop. A number of contentious issues have recently faced both the city and the county, including the rescue truck operations, the construction dump near the city which is operated by the county, as well as the impending increase the city’s contract with the county for law enforcement services.
The issue of landfills was tabled last week. The law enforcement contract – Fillmore will likely see increased contract costs for MPs – is not in place until June. However, rescue truck operations were cited as an immediate concern.
Fillmore firefighters forced the county to increase its pay for services outside of Fillmore in August. Firefighters demanded $ 25 an hour to operate the rescue truck, with a minimum of two hours per call.
In the latest ultimatum, firefighters essentially told city and county leaders that they would refuse to extricate themselves outside of the city’s fire coverage area after the start of the new year.
County District Attorney Pat Finlinson spoke most often on behalf of county officials. He said the county is now preparing to take over extrication services along I-15.
“We understand that this will be a county obligation. We will fund and provide this service, ”he said.
He also told city council members and Mayor Mike Holt that at the same time the city would also be newly responsible for ambulance services in the city, but the county would be willing to consider an exchange – the county would exchange ambulance services within the city if the city continued to provide rescue operations outside the city.
The question of the remuneration of volunteers was left somewhat open to negotiation. Finlinson suggested the county would continue to pay firefighters – he suggested the city might just be able to bill the county – while Commissioner Bill Wright maintained he was in favor of the city taking over all responsibilities of the rescue truck, including maintenance of equipment and compensation of firefighters.
“If this is only a direct exchange and the question of who pays the responders is open, but if it is only an exchange, we exchange the ambulance services to Fillmore City against extrication services outside of Fillmore City, ”Finlinson said. “This is what the exchange looks like. And the question of who pays the guys who actually respond, it doesn’t seem as clear as I thought it was. ”
The county attorney has also said on several occasions that the county has no plans to come in between the city and its firefighters.
“What the county doesn’t want to do, and I know I speak for everyone here, we don’t want to fit into the politics and the politics of Fillmore City,” he said. “We don’t want to be seated at this table… it’s up to you to train with your fire department. We do not denigrate anyone. We do not condemn them and you must make this decision.
Finlinson also said the county was in no way trying to limit the city’s options for providing ambulance services.
He said the figure of $ 150,000 cited came from the county by simply dividing the current ambulance budget by the number of people residing in the county, learning that the cost of providing ambulances is around $ 60 per citizen. and per year using this formula. But if the city chose to contract with another service or even buy its own ambulance, it was free to do so.
“We are not at all, you still have all the options. You can buy an ambulance. You can contract with Gold Cross, ”he said. “All we’re saying is if you want to work with the county, that’s what you expect. But it’s negotiable. We are happy to continue the conversation.
Mayor Mike Holt said it looked like the city would incur additional costs no matter what, thanks to HB303.
“It’s going to cost us anyway. We have to figure out what’s best for Fillmore City, ”he said.
City Councilor Dennis Alldredge said he appreciated the county not wanting to get involved in local politics, but also said he was doing so anyway.
“You are in a backdoor,” he said. “You push us into a corner. ”
One thing that was repeated throughout the discussion was that the fire department wanted a new rescue truck. Alldredge said it looked like the town would be forced to buy one to please its firefighters, who had indeed complained about the wear and tear of the town’s rescue truck due to calls for the outside of town.
City Councilor Kyle Monroe said at $ 150,000 a year for ambulance services, the city would essentially buy a new fire truck every three years while the contract is paid off.
Finlinson agreed it was not lost on county officials that Fillmore City, due to its proximity to the freeway, saw more of a burden.
“No one in the county is blind to the fact that the eastern part of the county has the highway. We understand that there is an additional burden there, ”he said.
City Councilor Eric Jensen, who handles firefighter issues for the city council, asked if the state offers assistance in handling emergencies along the highway.
Finlinson responded, “Welcome to local government,” before explaining that HB303 is essentially another unfunded government mandate.
“In every legislative session, I cringe. I hold my breath throughout the session because I know there are going to be five more unfunded mandates. They’re going to make us do something and not pay for it, ”Finlinson said. “The state is supposed to be low to the ground. We are not in Millard County. I don’t see any help on the horizon.
Jensen urged Holt to quickly arrange a meeting with local firefighters so that the issue of the rescue truck operations can be resolved.
“January 1 is coming very quickly,” he said.
Holt agreed that a discussion was necessary.
Alldredge said his thinking on the matter had changed, particularly when a local EMT recently warned him that the city may be able to see its ambulance services disappear.
“It never occurred to me… I never thought of it that way. We’re getting ambulance service for nothing in Fillmore. We don’t have to pay a dime for it. I never thought about the trade on the deal… the point is it’s a county-wide program and we have to work together, ”he said. ” The legislator. Why are they sending it to counties and cities? Because they don’t want to raise taxes. They want us to do it.
County officials were due to hold a special committee meeting on Tuesday, including finalizing its 2022 budget. It was not clear last week whether additional funds would be specifically earmarked for rescue operations along the highway.