Northern Edgar County Ambulance decision needed

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CHRISMAN – Board members for the financially challenged Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service (NECAS) are still looking for ways to gain stability.

Edgar County Board Chairman Jeff Voigt met with the NECAS board Thursday, Nov. 29, to discuss one option. Voigt said it is possible to expand the current special service area providing ambulance service to Hunter, Stratton, Elbridge, Symmes, Grandview, Buck and Paris townships to include the northern townships. The special service area collects a tax to help support the Paris-based special service area ambulance.

NECAS board member Darren Craig noted another option is for the established Chrisman, Metcalf and Hume fire protection districts to levy an ambulance support tax on behalf of the service. Voigt agreed that is another avenue to consider.

“The county board is here to assist you,” said Voigt. “We will support you in any decision you make.”

Voigt emphasized the county board members do not want to compel NECAS into being a part of the special service area, but the county is concerned about delaying the decision much longer since there are timetables to be met as part of the process. He added the current contract with Eric and Nichole Shaughnessy, who operate the special service area ambulance, expires at the end of May and including northern Edgar County as part of the service area must be part of the contract talks, if that is what NECAS wants, prior to bidding the service.

NECAS has retained attorney Robert Morris to assist the board in this process and he was asked to investigate which option – expanding the special service area or taxing through the fire districts – is the best plan for the ambulance service.

“You just need to keep us posted so we know what direction you are headed,” said Voigt. “We are trying to keep our options open, too.”

Both Craig and NECAS board member Randall Wood expressed an opinion doing anything involving taxes might be a hard sell to residents.

Craig said in casual conversations with people about the problems the ambulance service is experiencing the general response is the public is not willing to solve it with another tax.

Wood agreed, saying he has heard the same thing, but he has also had people ask him why the NECAS board is not seeking a tax to keep the ambulance solvent. He is the Hume Fire Chief and said it is somewhat akin to people who grumble about the fire protection tax until a house or field is on fire and the volunteer operated trucks arrive on scene.

“Then they get it,” said Wood, adding it is similar for the ambulance because people don’t realize how important it is until they actually need emergency medical transport.

The two men also expressed a frustration at how some people are willing to let the ambulance service go away even though it will take a Paris-based ambulance about 40 minutes to reach the remotest parts of the county’s northern regions.

“We are looking for a way to keep funding this,” said NECAS board chairman Kevin Julian. “We are looking for an answer, and we are looking for the best answer.”