LIMA — The city is expected to purchase its second new ambulance this year, after City Council’s Safety Service Committee approved the move Monday.
Council will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, originally planned for another purpose, and will add the ambulance purchase to the agenda.
Councilors always supported the purchase, but had questions about the city’s ability to train and staff a second ambulance, and also with a strapped Fire Department’s capacity to staff the vehicle, especially if a private ambulance provider leaves the community.
“The last six months, we’ve heard our budget for the next year is in crisis, and we were looking at funding from Fire Department EMS transports to help shore that up,” 2nd Ward Councilor Sam McLean said. “If that money is going to the general fund, but we’re spending it as fast as we’re getting it, it’s not doing us any good.”
The city plans to finance the ambulance by paying about $30,000 through the next five years for it.
Fire Chief Mark Heffner said the city will soon hire a new group of firefighters, some of whom may already have their medical training. Also, in the short-term, the vacation season is soon to be over, meaning more officers will be on duty.
The new ambulance will replace an old one that didn’t meet the city’s own regulations for private ambulance companies. It is identical to the one purchased earlier this year, standardizing the workspace for staff. And, Heffner said, if the department acts quickly it can take advantage of 2009 pricing.
“We’re hoping you can bear with us. We’ll meet a commitment we made to the public about buying a new ambulance as soon as we could afford it,” Heffner said. “We’ve been right on the numbers, and we’ve been forthcoming.”
McLean said the chief satisfied his concerns.
Council President John Nixon said the Fire Department understands the medical transport revenue is not “proprietary” to the department, but if more runs are needed then more revenue could justify more staff.
Several city officials voiced concern about MedCorp’s current status in receivership. Heffner said the Fire Department is not staffed to handle the call load on a daily basis should MedCorp leave the city, but that it could handle that load in the short-term with help from the city’s other private provider, Lima Allen County Paramedics.