EMS to become public entity in 2019

By RICK MORAIN

For The Jefferson Herald

The Greene County board of supervisors is discussing a transition from a privately owned ambulance service to a publicly owned one.

Board chairman John Muir suggested to the board at its Dec. 27 meeting that the county take on a six-month transition deputy through the sheriff’s office to work with current longtime Greene County EMS owners Dennis and Marcia Morlan toward a new EMS department owned and operated as a public entity. 

The Morlans are planning to retire July 1 from providing EMS services.

The new department would be a standalone agency, not under the sheriff or Greene County Medical Center. The six-month transition deputy would prepare for the public operation of the service, getting up to speed on details and what a budget would require. 

Muir said he thinks privately owned EMS “isn’t the way we want to go in the future.” He added, speaking of ambulance services, that “we need it to be a thriving community.” Both Boone and Carroll counties have publicly owned EMS services.

The Morlans’ EMS operation has a number of part-time employees. They would need to be hired by the new public entity once the transition takes place. 

It’s not known at present what role, if any, the municipalities of the county or the medical center would play in the new arrangement.

On other matters, the board presented plaques of appreciation to outgoing county attorney Nick Martino and outgoing county treasurer Donna Lawson. Martino is ending a 42-year career as county attorney, and Lawson has served as county treasurer for the past 32 years.

Incoming county attorney Thomas Laehn informed the board that 12 new criminal charges were filed last week, a high number for Greene County.

Four organizations presented funding requests to the board for fiscal year 2019-20 at the Dec. 27 meeting. The amounts are similar to their past annual funding.

Rick Hunsaker, representing Region XII Council of Governments, requested $17,883, plus three cents per mile for capital match to help meet federal requirements for vehicle replacement. 

Region XII’s total request comes from $8,122 for the county’s membership fee (at a per capita rate of 87 cents), $4,761 for Western Iowa Transit (at a per capita rate of 51 cents), and $5,000 in matching funds for the Local Housing Trust Fund for primarily very low-income persons.

Hunsaker said that Western Iowa Transit has three full-time and some part-time drivers in Greene County. 

He added that Region XII expects to build four new houses in Jefferson this coming year, starting this spring. 

He also said that there is an effort underway in the Legislature to permit prison facilities to build housing for Iowa locations. The houses would be manufactured at the Newton prison facility. South Dakota has had such a program for the past 20 years.

Chad Jensen, representing New Opportunities Inc., which operates the Family Development Center in Greene County, requested the same amount as this past year: $19,891. He said the agency directly served 1,453 Greene County residents in 2018.

The breakout for that total is as follows: $5,304 for the Family Development Center, $6,979 for substance abuse treatment, and $7,608 as matching funds for state substance abuse prevention services through the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Jensen provided charts showing a wide range of programs funded through the Family Development Center and demographics of the center’s clients and their needs, including low-income winter heating assistance (the LIHEAP program).

Cherie Cerveny of the Greene County Early Learning Center requested the same $5,000 amount as in the year just ending. She said the center plans to either renovate or replace its facility on West Madison Street, just south of the middle school. 

That would allow another 56 youngsters to be provided child care and early learning services by the organization, for a total of 150. There is still a shortage of child care in the county, Cerveny said.

Mike Piepel, who represents county indigents, said the number of individuals who once lived for many years at the county home northwest of Jefferson (which became Cedar Lane Estates) is now down to three. 

Some of them had lived at the facility for close to 50 years. All are now in their 60s. Piepel said that at one time there had been as many as 22 individuals in that group. Piepel thanked the supervisors for their faithful support of the indigent program.

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