New ambulance atop 2010 EMS wish list

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Lambert also seeks money for defibrillator

By Kevin Koelling, Managing Editor

TELL CITY - County-council members heard an appeal for new emergency equipment Aug. 20 as they consider budget needs for next year.

An annual meeting with department heads brought several people to the commissioners room in the county courthouse hoping to convince the fiscal body not to inflict too much damage when they work Sept. 15 and 16 to make projected revenues and expected expenses match.

Emergency Medical Services Director Pat Lambert had some new expenses, for a new automated external defibrillator and an ambulance, on the wish list she submitted to the council.

Before they're factored in, projected expenses will total $99,310 in 2010, compared to the $94,250 she expects to have spent by the end of this year, she said.

Lambert wants to add a $1,500 AED to those now carried in ambulances and staff members' private vehicles. Used to restore a disrupted heart rhythm, the devices have been placed in several locations around the county, like the county courthouse, electric department and City Hall in Tell City and Perry Central Community School. EMS staffers multiply their availability.

"We have individuals who live in different places in the county," Lambert explained. "I live in Rocky Point, we have some in Bristow and we have some that are more on the other side of the county. Those people can get to those patients, if they've called 911, much quicker."

Six of the life-saving devices were donated by an individual in the county, she said, two came through grant funding and her agency bought one with memorial donations to EMS.

Big-ticket Item

"The big expenditure is the ambulance," Lambert told the council. Three of the four units in her fleet range from a 1994 model with 223,000 miles to a 2006 model with 116,000 miles. The fourth is a 1997 four-wheel-drive with 108,000 miles that is not used for routine transfers in order to keep the mileage down.

Replacement options include a new one-time purchase, a lease-purchase or a "remount," the EMS director told the council.

A remount, in which the ambulance "box" is lifted off of an existing chassis and placed on a new one, will cost approximately $80,000, "and whenever they do that, it's completely refurbished," she explained.

The box is repainted, the air conditioner and heater are replaced and lighting would likely be replaced with a light-emitting-diode system to decrease the load on the electrical system, Lambert continued, and any cracks or tears in the floor or the upholstery are repaired. Wiring harnesses are inspected, but not replaced unless necessary.

A remount "would probably save us about $25,000," she said, compared to a new unit, whose price could approach $110,000. A lease-purchase would be that amount with an initial interest rate of approximately 4 percent and could be paid off over five years.

Council President Pete Franzman asked Lambert to get several quotes and to look into alternative financing, including a lease option on a remount or a low-mileage used ambulance.

The county can't likely afford a new ambulance "unless we can find a grant or something, and I doubt that there are any out there, that we can buy a whole new ambulance," he said. "The budget's going to have to be pretty much flat-lined."

"It's definitely a big-ticket item, and we're just part of the whole picture," Lambert told him. "We'll work with you any way we can."

In response to a question from Councilman Ron Crawford, Lambert said the four-wheel-drive ambulance "should last for quite some time."