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By KEVIN KOELLING
TELL CITY – Perry County’s commissioners adopted an ordinance at their Jan. 6 regular meeting that may result in quicker ambulance service to northern parts of the city.
They voted at a Dec. 30 meeting, which the News did not attend, to set aside up to $20,000 from the county’s economic-development income-tax fund to support an item in the county’s capital-improvement plan to place an ambulance at its highway garage.
Commissioner Randy Kleaving said staging an ambulance there would require living quarters for its crews.
Such accommodations were included in the building’s design but walls weren’t erected. No additions to the building’s exterior will be needed, he explained, but interior walls, a lounge, sleeping quarters and laundry and kitchen equipment will be installed.
Several people have said they’ll donate labor, Kleaving added, so the money will go mainly to materials such as drywall, doors and concrete blocks.
“Heating and air will be one of the bigger expenses,” he said. He and Commissioner Tom Hauser said they hope the cost will be “way under” the $20,000.
As the News reported Feb. 9, 2012, residents of rural areas of the county tried to get commissioners then to follow through with the plan to stage an ambulance at the garage south of Leopold. Irv Ruger was one of them, and told the commissioners it was understood when the building was constructed in 2000 an ambulance would be one of the vehicles housed there. Paramedics now respond to emergencies from a building next to the Perry County Memorial Hospital in Tell City. Twenty to 30 minutes could be cut from response times to other parts of the county, Ruger said. He also said 500 names had been gathered on petitions for the extended service.
Kleaving said Friday hospital officials are looking at the issue and he pegged the cost at roughly $300,000. How much of that the county would have to bear is “really a guessing game,” he added. The county budgeted $88,450 for 2013 “but didn’t use any of it,” he noted. County records show nothing spent in 2012 and $21,258 in 2011.
“It all depends on how many runs are made and how many people pay,” Kleaving explained, noting that insurance plans cover the bulk of costs.
He also said even if the county garage didn’t exist, the county needs a north ambulance station. As a firefighter, he monitors emergency scanners, so he knows how many runs are made, and he said many fellow firefighters and otherrescue workers are concerned about the time they take.
During last week’s frigid weather, he added, an ambulance was sent to the garage for at least two days because local officials didn’t know how bad road conditions would get.
In addition to adopting the ordinance, the commissioners voted to amend the EDIT plan to reflect the move and approved an additional appropriation of the money. It would not affect other uses of the money because it would be funded by two additional EDIT payments that were received in 2012 for 2011 and ’12, County Auditor Connie Berger explained. The county council will have to approve the appropriation before the project can proceed.
“Under the EDIT plan, that money was placed under what is called the community economic development fund,” county attorney Chris Goffinet explained. “That money is used to make bond payments and the extra is used for economic-development purposes.” He noted the improved service will support the latter purpose.
The building upgrades are expected to be completed within a couple of months, Kleaving said Friday, “then we’ll work from there” on staffing it. “It might happen this year.”
The commissioners will next meet at 8 a.m. Jan. 21 in the county courthouse.