While Lewis County Fire District 15 has rescinded its letter of intent to withdraw from Lewis County Medic One, Cowlitz/Lewis Fire District 20 has kept its letter in place, on the grounds they wish to clarify financial expectations beforehand.
Districts 15 and 20, respectively based in Winlock and Vader, had submitted letters of intent earlier this year stating they would withdraw from Medic One in 2014 if its financial management was not evaluated and correspondingly improved. Their contentions had risen in light of a request by Medic One for financial contributions from District 15 and District 2, based in Toledo, in an effort to counter an expected budget shortfall of roughly $45,000 at the end of this year. It had been stated District 20 was not being asked for funding as their budget was significantly smaller than the others.
District 15 had contended they would not support a plan where all parties were not asked to contribute and, during a meeting of the Medic One Interlocal Board June 5, a compromise was reached that all member districts would pay a fee for service reflective of the volume of transports typical within a year. To cover the deficit, District 2 was asked for a $14,830, fee, District 15 was asked for a $20,302 fee and District 20 was asked for a $10,810 fee, with all districts being asked to contribute half immediately, with the other half to be paid based on then-current figures toward the end of the year.
While District 15 did vote to rescind their letter and pay the first half of their fee during their June 11 meeting, District 20 kept their letter in place and tabled approval of the funding June 13, stating they wished to speak with Medic One Operations Chief Grant Wiltbank to determine what the fee was intended to be used for and how the figure of $45,000 was reached.
District 20 Commissioner Terry Williams said he was concerned the $45,000 anticipated shortfall did not take into account the loss of a paramedic from Medic One in February, stating the lack of employment costs for one person during the last several months should have helped close the budgetary gap. Williams added District 20 may not have any “leverage” to voice their concerns with Wiltbank if the letter were rescinded and commissioners voted unanimously to keep it in place, though with reluctance from Commissioner Carol Stine.
During the June 18 meeting of the Interlocal Board, Stine, a member of the board, said her district was also hesitant because of the status of their ambulance transportation license, which was revoked June 1 by the State Department of Health in light of an insufficient number of paramedics to meet state requirements. She said it was felt the letter should not be rescinded in the event District 20 is no longer able to offer transportation services as part of the interlocal, but officials said it seemed likely the Department of Health would reinstate the license if current proposals were accepted.
Wiltbank said it has been proposed that Districts 15 and 2, as well as Medic One, be added as secondary agencies to District 20 to officially reflect the support mechanisms already in place whereby paramedics with the other agencies assist District 20 when additional personnel are needed.
Wiltbank said he has been assured by the Department of Health that this would be a legally-sound solution to meet the current requirement for two paramedics during ambulance transportation (District 20 currently has only one) and said he expected to hear back within the week if this plan was to be accepted for consideration.
In the mean time, Wiltbank said he remains reluctant to hire a new paramedic to fill the vacant position with District 20’s letter still in place, but felt a resolution to the district’s concerns may come quickly and was given approval from the Interlocal Board to hire an applicant upon the rescinding of the letter and the approval of payment from District 20. A special meeting of the District 20 board to speak with Wiltbank was expected to be scheduled soon at the commissioners’ convenience.
At press time, Town Crier had been unable to contact District 20 or Medic One regarding the status of the letter or proposed funding.