The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors recently declared that the ambulance programs in the county are an essential service. This allowed the board to form an advisory committee that would decide what steps to take to assure these services continue. The biggest issue is staffing with some volunteers on call for more than 60 hours per week.
The three ambulance services in Buffalo Center, Lake Mills, and Forest City are situated so that the county can have effective service coverage presently. One of the problems is that Forest City, which has the larger of the staffs, sometimes has to cover for the other departments who may be out on a call or transporting a patient to a hospital.
The board, and the advisory committee agree that funding is another issue. The committee is leaning towards better pay for EMT’s and paramedics in order to retain their services. This may lead to the committee recommending funding through increased property taxes, a levy, or a minimal local income tax.
One of the major issues addressed in the recent meetings is whether to consolidate the services in Thompson or keep them where they are. Forest City representatives on the committee wanted to keep their services in town according to Forest City Administrator Daisy Huffman.
The committee meeting was also the last for Barney Ruiter of Forest City who passed away unexpectedly about a week afterwards. This meant the Forest City delegation to the committee had to choose a new member and forward it to the Winnebago Board of Supervisors according to Huffman.
The board has yet to act on the nomination.
Further discussions on the future of the EMT programs in Winnebago County will be discussed as no firm plan has been decided upon and what will be presented to the voters in a future election.