FAIRFIELD — Jefferson County and the city of Fairfield will have a change to their ambulance service beginning in October.
At Monday’s county board of supervisors meeting, supervisor Lee Dimmitt discussed a six-hour ambulance board meeting he had last week about how the county, city and Jefferson County Health Center could go forward in sharing an ambulance service.
The county and city agreed to a three-year contract with CARE Ambulance, LLC, to provide its medical and emergency services, which will take effect once the current contract with Midwest Ambulance Service of Iowa expires in six months.
“In the end, I was trying to make a justification for not hiring CARE instead of a justification for hiring the city,” Dimmitt said. “There was a lot of give and take. I had to set aside my personal bias for what would be best for the county going forward.”
The county, city and the hospital will all share in the service, and Dimmitt made clear the hospital wouldn’t enter an open-ended 28E agreement and share one-third of any losses. Supervisor Dee Sandquist asked if there would be any cost to the county this year, and Dimmitt said there wouldn’t be this fiscal year, and didn’t anticipate much change over the next three years.
“As the subsidy goes up, if the valuations go up enough to cover the subsidy for the hospital levy, then our contribution will be the same,” he said. “It only goes up $10,000 each year. If we flat-line at this point, I’m still only looking at an additional $10,000 for each entity.”
In its proposals — which were bid on by CARE, Midwest and the city — the county offered to puchase and maintain three ambulances, but Dimmitt said that CARE “wouldn’t hold us to that.” He sees a mutual benefit to the service, which has bases in Waterloo and Grinnell, per the company’s website.
“I know they operate in Johnson County, have a contract with Iowa Speedway, Life Flight and Mayo Clinic,” Dimmitt said. “I had a lot of reservations about a private entity, but they want to be involved in our community. They’re very excited about being here.”
Sandquist questioned whether CARE’s employees would be local paramedics, and Dimmitt said they would be. CARE will have at least one paramedic per ambulance.
“I don’t know what the salary and benefits will look like,” he said. “They’ll be repatriating their current people and bringing them here, and maybe potentially bringing back some of the laid off firefighters in Ottumwa, but that’s beyond my purview.”
Dimmitt still wants to buy an ambulance with money set aside so the county can have an asset, of which it current doesn’t have. The county sold its last ambulance six years ago.
The county had looked into a sharing agreement with Henry County in recent months, but nothing was established.
“I think the city runs a great operation. I’m solidly in their corner,” Dimmitt said. “But we only have six months to the end of our contract, and I didn’t think we could pull anything together.
“I wanted the city. I wanted the public service, but whether or not financially I was going to hurt the county residents and taxpayers by going in that direction in terms of whatever came up...,” Dimmitt said. “You take all those things into consideration, plus the hospital’s concern about an open-ended agreement they weren’t going to be part of, and I was kind of pigeon-holed. But there was no animosity at all. The hospital staked out its position, and I wasn’t going to compel their board to do something they weren’t going to do.”
Dimmitt believes CARE’s service will be noticeably better than the current agreement.
“It’ll be heads above. They’re more interested in being a community partner, have local people from here who currently work in Iowa City, and will bring those local people back,” he said. “That’s a huge thing to me.”