The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

County Votes On Ambulance Issue

By: Joy Swearingen, Correspondent

An ambulance will remain in Warsaw.

The Hancock County Board voted Tuesday night, (Oct. 17) to house one ALS (Advanced Life Support) ambulance in Carthage, and a second ALS unit in Warsaw, The county will discontinue the BLS (Basic Life Support) ambulance.

Before this action, the county ambulance service included two ALS units, both stationed in Carthage, and a BLS unit housed in Warsaw.

This decision comes after months of discussion on how to curb ambulance costs by the Miscellaneous and Health Committee, and by residents, primarily from the Warsaw area, who came to county board meetings, expressing concern about removing the ambulance service from Warsaw.

The ALS unit will be stationed in Warsaw for six months, at which time it may be moved on a trial basis to Hamilton, if adequate housing arrangements for on-call crews can be supplied.

Ambulance service in Hancock County has transitioned over the past 20 years from mostly volunteer operators to paid emergency crews. The cost of operating with a paid crew of EMTs and paramedics is using down ambulance funds.

Current Ambulance Coordinator, Gabe Smeltser, said discontinuing the BLS unit will save about $21,000 per month in payroll. The change of location for the one ALS unit should not affect the staff cost.

Adding to the cost, a part time county ambulance coordinator was first hired in January 2008. The position changed to full time in 2012.

Smeltser said the new plan to relocate ambulances must have approval from the Illinois Department of Public Health, which could take up to 60 days.

The county ambulance service covers most of Hancock County. Nauvoo and LaHarpe have separate ambulance service tax levies and operate their own ambulances. HN-20 from Lomax in Henderson covers calls in Dallas City. These are usually operated as BLS units, although Nauvoo can be ALS when paramedics are on duty. Hancock County provides ALS service in these areas when needed.

In a second on-going issue, the Finance Committee reported that the county had lost its second appeal related to unemployment compensation for the former supervisor of assessments, Kelly Joiner.

The board approved a resolution that they would drop further appeals of unemployment for Joiner.

There have been three applications for the supervisor of assessments position, but none of them have passed the state test to qualify.

The board will continue to seek a replacement for Joiner, with Heidi Wilson serving as interim supervisor of assessments.

The board renewed health insurance for county employees with Symetra. The stop-loss limit that the county pays was raised from $25,000 to $30,000. The plan is a partial self-insurance, with a reinsurer that will pay for claims per person over $30,000.

A line-item was added to the budget for health insurance within the Liability Insurance Fund.

A preliminary engineering agreement for $99,121 with Cummins Engineering Corp was approved for a plan to upgrade county guardrails. The board approved a resolution appropriating funds for the systematic guardrail upgrades.

Elgin Berry, county engineer, explained that the county needs a new road grader. After getting bids for a used grader from Case, John Deere and Caterpillar, he recommended a three-month rent agreement for a 2011 John Deere grader with 4,000 hours. If he is satisfied after the three months, the rent would go toward purchase of the grader.

Juri Southerland of Littleton addressed the board seeking help on a bad check for $11,000 he received for services during the Nauvoo to Carthage marathon run held in May, organized by Sports in Motion LLC. Southerland's company, Done Rite Construction, closed roads and provided traffic control, signs and personnel, during the race.

He asked the board to take the lead on getting payment for him and others who may not have received money for services during the race. The board took his request under advisement.

Mike Heisler of Warsaw was appointed to the Hancock County Building Commission.