BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – The panel convened to oversee the operations of Lee County EMS Inc, is in a hurry to get a director hired.
The panel met for the second time on Thursday to go over some preliminary budget numbers when the conversation turned toward payroll and hiring a team to administer the ambulance service when and if the county takes over on July 1, 2021.
Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise, who sits on the panel, said she would be in favor of getting someone hired for the position sooner rather than later.
Fraise told Lee County Supervisor Rick Larkin, who also sits on the committee, that she wanted to put the hiring on the supervisors agenda in the very near future.
“A lot of the applications we’re going to turn in need to have a director’s name on it,” Fraise said. “So that person needs to be working on the budget with us. I’m going to suggest that we amend the budget and hire a director now.”
Jim Steffen, from Mt. Pleasant, is chairing the panel and said it’s going to be tough to find someone in a rush. He also suggested hiring an assistant director and an administrative person.
“The issue is before you can hire a director we have to know what the qualifications are for that gig,” he said. “Those people are in demand. There’s not a whole lot of those people out there with a bachelor’s degree, and five years supervisory experience in ambulance service. You’re probably looking at someone who’s going to leave their current job for this one.”
Steffen said he didn’t think the panel could get a job description together, list the opening, and find someone before September.
“You can’t do it earlier than Sept. 1 – I just don’t see that. But I would say no later than Nov. 1,” he said.
No salary or job descriptions were discussed other than the bachelor’s degree and five years experience.
The group also said they needed to have firm budget numbers ready for the Lee County Board of Supervisors before the end of November.
The county starts the next fiscal year budget sessions in December and has to have things finalized in February.
Larkin said the group needed to have those figures buttoned down pretty good, and then should be prepared for the county to whittle them down more.
“We need to be pretty close. Our budgeting time goes on until mid February so, I mean, there’s some time,” he said.
“And when we look at the budget and what were recommending, I’m sure it will be revised several times. You and I know there’ll be a certain amount we can’t do, and we’ll have to bring it back down.”
Panel member Dr. Philip Caropreso of Keokuk said he’s reached out to Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission director Mike Norris to help investigate funding for public ambulance providers through the Ground Emergency Management Transport program.
Steffen said the program, administed by the Iowa Department of Public Health, wouldn’t provide funding until the county-run service had two years of cost analysis for the state to consider.
The group also talked about billing services for the county run ambulance. Steffen said they could hire and pay someone internally to take care of billing, they could hire it out, or current county staff could handle the billing.
Fraise said she spoke with officials in Des Moines County who said they would be willing to take on the billing for Lee County, but the cost of paying them for the service wasn’t discussed during that meeting in Burlington. Steffen said the panel should plan on 5% of net revenues.
Steffen said the committee should also be considering operational benchmarks for Lee County EMS Inc. during the one-year contract. He said he would bring suggestions back when the committee meets again on Thursday.