City officials question panel’s ambulance service direction


FORT MADISON – Fort Madison city officials are watching closely the movement of a panel making recommendations on county ambulance services.

At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, held by tele-and video conference, Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker said the city needs to monitor that progress carefully.

“I have a lot of concerns from a city perspective,” Bowker said. “The bids they received from (American Medical Response) was looking at 400,000 some dollars and I have some reliability concerns if the county starts to go for that. It’s something to watch closely.”

Fort Madison Fire Chief Joey Herren said he wasn’t on a Thursday meeting call with the committee the Lee County Board of Supervisor’s assembled, but said he too believes the city should keep an eye on that situation.

Herren said he believes the council should also “keep on the burner” the idea of the city establishing its own ambulance service.

“We need to keep looking at this,” he said. “And keep it on the burner to look at providing ambulance service for the city ourselves because of the way the bids are. We have some concerns with it.”

Herren submitted a proposal to the committee as well, in conjunction with the Keokuk Fire Department, to split the county north and south. Fort Madison’s proposal asked for $966,000 per year from the county to offset the shortfall city staff projected at the outset. It also required close to a $1 million capital outlay in the form of a 5-year loan to purchase rigs, equipment and supplies to start.

The proposal was set to the side by the committee while they investigate the AMR proposal further on Friday.

Mayor Matt Mohrfeld said the city has to have advanced medical services for it’s residents.

“Here it is and it’s simple. When 911 calls we need to respond with paramedic ALS service and if that can’t happen with that level of subsidy we’re going to have to look at what happens next,” he said.

“Bids like this shouldn’t swing in million dollar jumps. I do echo what (Joey) says. We need to keep monitoring this situation and see where it progresses.”

Herren said he hasn’t yet put together what the investment would look like if the city wanted to jump into providing it’s own service.

“I have not crunched those numbers yet. That’s probably something I’ll take a look at in the next couple weeks,” Herren said.

The council moved ahead with a second reading of an ordinance to rezone property on the west end of the 2300 block of Avenue J to allow a possible warehouse to be built privately that could have room for city ambulance vehicles, including a residence for staff space. The city would lease space as part of that option.

Bowker said the rezoning should be considered separate of the ambulance conversation because Bob Holtkamp, who is considering putting up the building for his family’s business Holtkamp’s Floors, Decor and Furniture, would ultimately use the warehouse space.

“I don’t want the two tied if Holtkamps still want the warehouse space,” she said.

In an unrelated issue, the council also approved a $214,569 dollar bid to replace the lighting and wind cone at the Fort Madison Airport.

The bid was awarded to a firm out of Urbandale who had the lowest bid. The money for the work will come from the Federal Aviation Administration and CARES Act funding.

Councilman Bob Morawitz said if it didn’t impact the city’s contribution, he would like to see the work go to someone local. Mohrfeld Electric and Frank Millard both bid on the work.

Because it’s a federally funded project, the lowest bid has to be taken unless disqualified, Mohrfeld said.

In other action, the council:

• approved a request from the Historical Preservation Commission to apply to put the city’s historic locomotive on the National Register of Historic Places.

• approved the first reading of an ordinance amending the zoning code regarding floodplain management to reflect new FEMA mapping changes. City Manager David Varley said the changes are minor changes and won’t impact property owners.

• heard from Mayor Matt Mohrfeld on a plan for a city appreciation cruise/parade set for May 23 to honor 2020 graduates of Fort Madison High School and Holy Trinity Catholic High School, in partnership with Shottenkirk Automotive.

1 thought on “City officials question panel’s ambulance service direction

  1. Typical of government cost verses private company, 4 times as much money for equal or poorer service. Privatize all government operations.

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