WCCAD discovers $25K 'windfall'

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- The Western Carroll County Ambulance District can breathe a little easier, at least for awhile, as the board learned last week it can add to its coffers an extra $25,000 that had fallen through the cracks.

Treasurer Joe McClung, Jr. referenced a story that appeared in Carroll County News (June 2, 2013, Midweek edition) about declining revenue the commission has available to spend on equipping and training first responders because of the new contract for ambulance service with Eureka Springs. He said county treasurer Cindy Collins, troubled by the story, double-checked the figures.

"She said everything else had increasing revenues," McClung said.

She found a $25,000 check that had not been deposited. The money had come from a November 2012 issuance. McClung said it may have fallen through the cracks because the commission was having problems with its post office box, and the check was mailed but never retrieved.

"So amended receipts for 2012 are $274,500," McClung said, "which is a $12,000 increase over 2011."

This is good news for WCCAD, which is faced with an expensive replacement of its 46 Automatic External Defibrillators, carried by every Emergency Medical Responder, because their current models are obsolete and can't be serviced by the manufacturer. In late May, a representative of PhysioControl demonstrated newer models that are more durable and reliable and have more functions.

But replacing all 46 units at once would cost around $100,000, money WCCAD cannot see funding without jeopardizing expenditures in other needed areas.

Lynn Palmer, EMR Alliance chairman, said the Alliance recommends replacing the units on an "as needed" basis.

McClung agreed with that, noting the WCCAD board relies on the recommendations of the Alliance, but also suggested the purchases be approved by the board first. Palmer said the Alliance would discuss the issue further at its next meeting.

Another issue the Alliance will take up is its rule that EMRs respond to 25 percent of the calls in their area if they want to attend the annual conference and keep their equipment. Mike Fitzpatrick, the Eureka Springs Rural Fire Department representative, asked, "Twenty-five percent of what? Total calls makes no sense."

ES rural has the largest response area, from Lake Leatherwood and Onyx Cave on its northern side, to Timber Ridge Road on its westernmost side, to Turpentine Creek and the Hogscald areas of Hwy. 23 South on its southern side and to the Carroll County Airport on its eastern side. Fitzpatrick pointed out that these distances are prohibitive for all responders to make. His contention is that only those in the area of the call need respond, they shouldn't have to drive more than a few miles each and shouldn't be penalized for not making 25 percent of all calls.

Holiday Island Fire Chief Jack Deaton suggested dividing the area into zones, as he has done with his area, and requiring responders to make 25 percent of the calls in their area. In his report on activity since the last meeting, he said Holiday Island's call volume had risen to the point that "we're getting three to five calls a day, sometimes 10 minutes apart, so we have to be careful how many people we send out on a call."

But how far anyone should have to drive in any given area is still up for discussion.

Deaton said, "If everyone else (in the WCCAD district) covers much more area, why shouldn't Eureka Springs have to?"

"We're not talking about fairness, we're talking about reality," Fitzpatrick said. "If it takes 20 minutes to get to a call, that's not a 'first responder.' It makes no sense to get to a call when the ambulance is leaving."

In other business, the board:

* Approved the purchase of a laptop, accounting software and printer for board use.

* Approved the newly created 2013 budget. Income from tax revenues is projected at $275,000, with $247,000 (90 percent) to be paid on the ambulance contract, leaving $28,000 (10 percent) for WCCAD expenditures, as follows: $14,000 for EMR training, $7,000 for the EMR conference, $6,000 for AED replacements and $1,000 for administrative needs, of which most will go for the laptop purchase.

* Heard ambulance performance reports for four months, March through June. Holiday Island continues to have the lion's share of calls, with 53 percent in March, 68 percent in April, 62 percent in May and 60 percent in June. McClung asked that Eureka Springs Fire Chief Rhys Williams either attend all WCCAD meetings or send a representative to present reports and answer questions.

* Heard EMR reports. Fitzpatrick said a car accident call came in while the department was in a meeting, so everyone went on the call and worked smoothly together because of "the comfort level between individuals knowing each other, working together, doing what they had to do."

* Heard Jim Simmons will be sworn in by county judge Sam Barr as a new commissioner, to replace Chuck Olson on the board. Simmons volunteers with the Inspiration Point Fire Department, has lived in this area for five years, and is a former county sheriff. Commissioners will hold their officer elections once Simmons is seated on the board next month.

* Discussed expanding the board members to five and their service terms. The amended state law, which the governor signed on April 12, creates staggered terms from one to five years.

WCCAD will next meet on Tuesday, Aug. 13, at 4 p.m. at the Grassy Knob Fire Station.

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