BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Fort Madison and Keokuk city officials are hoping to have ambulance service proposals to the county by Friday, according to a Lee County Supervisor.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors held via teleconference, Supervisor Gary Folluo said it’s his understanding both cities are meeting Thursday and should have a proposal ready to come to the county by Friday.
However, no special meeting was set to review the proposals, prior to next Tuesday’s regular meeting.
A committee was formed about a month ago comprised of county and city elected officials and emergency response personnel, to look into the issue of county ambulance service, after Lee County Ambulance Inc, couldn’t meet payroll.
The county gave the company about $36,000 to cover payroll at that time and since then, the ambulance service has been operating on a week-to-week bases, while officials scramble to have continuing service at the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.
Garry Seyb Jr., a volunteer firefighter with Jackson Township Fire Dept., questioned the board on several issues including timelines for proposals, the level of service being offered, and how the county will fund anything over the $500,000 allocated in next year’s county budget.
“It seems the board is waiting for Fort Madison and Keokuk to submit proposals, but even if you approved those today, they would have 70 days to get equipment in place. I guess I’m just asking how long you’ll give them to submit a bid,” Seyb asked at the start of the meeting.
Folluo said the county has received two proposals, one from Lee County Ambulance, Inc, the current provider, and the other from the Global Medical Response, the parent company of AirEvac, which operates an medical airlift base behind Fort Madison Community Hospital. That company is licensed to provide ground ambulance service as well.
He said the committee, which includes Fort Madison Fire Chief Joey Herren and Keokuk Fire Chief Gabe Rose, has learned the cities should have a proposal ready by the end of the week.
Supervisor Rick Larkin, who also sits on the committee, said it’s been his understanding that the committee would wait for proposals until April 30.
“During this whole process I’ve operated under the assumption by May 1 we would have all the bids in and then proceed with our meetings, get a decision made and get it to the Board of Supervisors,” Larkin said. “That’s not official but that’s what I’ve been operating under – May 1.”
Fort Madison officials are considering preliminary steps Tuesday night to rezone some private and public property behind the fire station for a potential temporary warehouse to hold ambulances and staff.
Folluo said the city’s have been asked to answer a series of questions as part of their proposals including what level of service would be provided, among other things.
Fire Chief Joey Herren said Sunday that his proposal would be for advanced level service because the proposal would have to include hospital-to-hospital transfer service which mandates advanced level service.
Seyb said he’s heard that Rose is considering a basic level service.
“Joey indicated they were looking at an advanced service and Gabe said basic service. I guess til you have proposals you don’t know but those are real questions to ask,” Seyb said.
Folluo said the committee asked the cities to submit a proposal by 5 p.m. at the end of the month.
“Assuming they can meet that goal by that point, we’ll look at our proposals and review the answers to the questions. Then we’ll come to the Board of Supervisors and see what the board want to do,” Folluo said.
Board chairman Ron Fedler said after the committee has all the facts and information, he will call a special meeting if need to address the issues.
“But I can’t do that until they are ready to submit the proposals to the Board,” Fedler said.
In an unrelated issue, the board also tabled action on design services for exterior rehabilitation of the North Lee County Courthouse.
Fedler said he wanted the issue tabled until the county had a better idea of what their financial position will be in the next 30 to 60 days depending on the disposition of state and federal pandemic orders.
“I think delaying it at this time is the probably the most prudent thing to do,” Fedler said.
“We don’t have the money to tuckpoint the Fort Madison courthouse and we would have to bond to pay for the work and that would increase our tax on residents. I will not support this at this time and would like to see us save our money right now.”
County Budget Director Cindy Renstrom said the county is down about 8% in property tax revenue compared to last year.
“From previous years to this year overall, we are just about 8% less than last year for getting taxes in. I’m including some of the money we get from the state for credits aside from property taxes. So we’re not doing too bad,” she said.
In other action, the board:
• voted 5-0 on a Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation.
• voted 5-0 to approve a renewal of a lease agreement with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services for office space at the DHS buiding in Keokuk