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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
  • County grapples with rural EMS issue

  • The Sumner County Commission has grappled with the question of how to provide emergency services to rural areas of the county. Ideas such as a county-wide system have been discussed, but so far no solutions have been found.
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  • By James Jordan
    The Wellington Daily News
    The Sumner County Commission has grappled with the question of how to provide emergency services to rural areas of the county.  Ideas such as a county-wide system have been discussed, but so far no solutions have been found.
    Currently the county has a complex formula it uses, bases on runs, population and other services, to determine how much to pay each individual agency.
    Since Wellington and Mulvane are larger, they get most of that money.
    In 2013 the county spent $655,000 on EMS for the county, and $440,000 of that went to the two cities.
    Now the problem is getting worse because they cannot find volunteers to man the stations, and county officials are looking for answers.
    County Commissioner Steve Warner took it on as a project when he was elected four years ago, and he is still working.
    He would like to see each area of the county have its own tax base, much like fire districts do.
    “I have been trying to find out if we can give each EMS its own taxing authority. They can adjust it themselves and be accountable,” Warner said.
    He has asked the state’s attorney general if this can be done a few times but has not gotten an answer.
    “We don’t even know if we can legally do it, but it seems the fairest thing,” he said.
    Both Warner and commissioner Cliff Bales said the current system is flawed, but there does not seem to be a better way immediately available.
    “No one is doing anything wrong out there. We know there is inequity, none of us likes it,” Warner said of the current system.
    Most departments need to have hired staff, but few can afford that.
    “The day of the volunteer is about over. Cultural changes and with the economy, people don’t have the spare time they used to have,” Warner said.
    Most of the departments have run for years with volunteers, but those people are getting older and fewer younger people are volunteering.
    As it has risen to crisis levels, other towns like Argonia an Belle Plaine have come to the county for help, and though the commission has tried, not many solutions have been found.
    Currently it is Conway Springs that is nearing that state.
    They get about $15,000 from the county to cover a large area, and that drives up their costs.
    Conway Springs EMS director Jim Brozovich said his department should get a bigger piece of the pie from the county and he would like to see the system changed.
    Page 2 of 2 - “They have been talking about a county-wide system for 20 years. It is a cost issue.  The city can’t raise the mil levy enough to make up for it,” he said.
    Brozovich said the Conway Springs EMS has a budget of around $90,000 for the year, and they may consider not continuing the contract with the county.
    It would not hurt them that much financially to lose that money, and would cut their costs dramatically.
    Conway Springs held a town meeting recently, and only a few people showed up.
    The city did approve some part time EMS paid personnel, but staffing it with all paid workers is not feasible.
    Brozovich said the city and the EMS officials are trying to figure out what to do, and how to keep services going. They may approach the county at some point.
    When they do. Commissioner Warren hopes he will have gotten a ruling from the state.

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