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Consensus Forming on Plan for Future Ambulance Service

With more information on the table, the C.A.R.E. Committee charged with looking at the issue and making recommendations to county commissioners is closer to making a decision.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  The pieces are starting to fall into place for the future of ambulance service in St. Joseph.

With more information on the table, the C.A.R.E. Committee, charged with looking at the issue and making recommendations to county commissioners, is closer to making a decision.

At Thursday's ambulance committee meeting, members wanted to focus on two key points.

"Who's going to be the authorizing body to provide the service and then how are we going to pay for it," said Kevin Kirby, one of the committee members.

In researching who will be in charge, the group has collected signatures to put the issue of forming an ambulance district on the November ballot. They've also interviewed two possible for-profit companies to provide ambulance care.

But some don't like the idea of a for-profit company providing emergency services.

"The police department is non profit. The fire department is non profit. Why should ambulance service be different?" said John Harris, another committee member who also works for Heartland's ambulance service.

So now, another idea is gaining support for when Heartland discontinues ambulance service next July 1: Using a current not-for profit agency.

"The hospital would transfer it over and all those assets over," Harris said.

"Current paramedics, the current equipment and resources and having it be its own stand-alone ambulance authority," added Kirby.

To pay for future ambulance service, there will have to be a tax. It's just a question of what kind of tax can be passed at the polls.

"One of the things talked about was the difference in property tax versus sales tax," Harris said.

"One of the cons about a sales tax now is that we just passed an additional sales tax to fund police and fire. We want to keep our sales tax reasonable," said Kirby.

As the group gains consensus, they are happy about the progress being made.

"I feel we've made a lot of steps forward to look at that and which way we'd go," Harris said.

Committee members are running out of time to come up with a final decision.

They have until next week to submit petition signatures for a ballot question to create an ambulance district.

However, at the meeting, they were leaning toward the idea of transferring over Heartland's service to a non-profit.

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