BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Officials throughout Lee County met in an emergency joint teleconference on Saturday afternoon to discuss the dire situation of the Lee County Emergency Medical Services.
The ambulance service is facing disabling financial pressure highlighted by a $36,000 infusion from the county on Friday just to meet payroll through March.
The meeting was attending by representatives of the ambulance service, two Lee County Board of Supervisors, Keokuk and Fort Madison mayors, Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber, the fire chiefs of both city’s and other elected officials.
“This has become a crisis and this industry has reached a crisis,” said Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld.
“Fort Madison and Keokuk have offered some resources of personnel to look into options to keep this going, and some of the smaller cities have had helpful participation.”
Mohrfeld said no city has offered to contribute funds to the operation at this point. He said the efforts are focusing on determining what the service will look like going forward.
Lee County Supervisor Gary Folluo said Fort Madison Fire Chief Joey Herren and Keokuk Fire Chief Gabe Rose are both looking into whether the service can be operated under those respective city’s licenses to provide emergency services.
Folluo also said the Young family is making some inquiries through the IRS to release some incoming funds that are tied to a lien on the company.
“That phone call on Monday between Richard Young and the IRS will be very important. If we can get that to be the case, the fire departments are going to start talking to the state about operate off their licenses as emergency service providers, and then we go from there,” he said.
Folluo said the current contract between the county and the ambulance service expires on June 30, 2020. He said a new contract is in the Young’s hands, but he hasn’t heard confirmation they are going to sign it.
Mohrfeld said he doesn’t believe the Youngs will renew the contract.
“We do know that Lee County EMS has zero intention of renewing the contract at this point,” he said. “The more immediate concern now is can they provide services between now and then.”
Mohrfeld said its not so much a matter of money, which is the pressing issue at the moment, but the willingness and capacity to continue providing the service to Lee County residents.
“At this point it’s a bigger issue than just money. It’s more about if Lee County EMS can, and will, move forward. That has to be determined,” Mohrfeld said.
“If they can’t and won’t then it’s gotta be somebody else – a new private enterprise and based on the environment that’s damn thin. If that’s the case, the county recreates the wheel or it becomes some kind of blended (service).
“Basically, everyone got together and said can this move forward or does it transition into something else in a different form with different players.”
Mohrfeld said he called all seven Fort Madison City Council members to inform them of the meeting and update them on the situation.
Folluo said he feels better today knowing that the cities are instrumental in helping craft a program.
“We need to find a way so we can guarantee the safety of Lee County citizens,” he said.
The current agenda for the Lee County Board meeting on Tuesday does not include any additional action pertaining to the ambulance service.