County adopts a $75 annual ambulance fee
The Morgan County Commission enacted a Special Emergency Ambulance Service Fee ordinance at their Friday, June 15 meeting. The ordinance will impose a $75 annual ambulance fee for each household in Morgan County and will include both municipalities. The ambulance fee will become effective July 1.
The ambulance service fee will help fund mostly the Morgan County Rescue Service operations, but will also aid Paw Paw Fire and Rescue. The annual ambulance fee will be a separate bill that will be added to this year's property tax bills, which will go out in early July.
The commissioner's vote to enact an ordinance establishing an ambulance service fee came after a June 15 public hearing on the issue.
Specific ordinance wording and details will be worked out at the Friday, June 29 County Commission meeting. Details include whether the ambulance fee can be made in payments like the fire fee and property taxes and what consequences would be assigned for failure to pay the ambulance service fee. Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin is working on the wording of the ordinance.
Proposed fee was changed
An $85 ambulance service fee for each household was originally discussed at the June 1 meeting, but the commissioners asked the Morgan County Rescue Service to try to get the fee down lower. Rescue Service members returned to the June 15 public hearing with a proposed $75 ambulance fee per household, to which the commissioners finally agreed.
If 80% of the households pay the $75 ambulance fee, it would bring in additional revenue of $549,180. Now that the ambulance fee has been approved, the Morgan County Rescue Service's voluntary subscription service will be discontinued.
What it will fund
The increased revenue from the ambulance fee will fund two full-time crews with benefits and retirement, pay to replace one ambulance over three years, provide needed equipment, and also cover some of the Morgan County Rescue Squad's normal operating costs that will increase over time.
The ambulance fee would also allow them to increase the salaries for paramedics from $13 to $17 an hour and raise the wages for emergency medical technicians from $9-$10 an hour to $13 an hour.
The Morgan County Rescue Service has five full-time employees on staff—two full-time paramedics and two full-time EMTs plus Chief John Corson. Corson is their day-to-day operations manager and also an EMT. They also have 21 part-time paramedics and EMTs.
Money for Paw Paw Center
Some $50,000 is budgeted from this year's ambulance fee for Paw Paw Fire and Rescue operating budget and ambulance replacement. Paw Paw Fire and Rescue members voted to remain a volunteer service.
Putting a new ambulance on the road with all the necessary equipment costs approximately $85,000-$90,000. Because of new American Heart Association guidelines, all county defibrillators must be replaced July 1 for a total of $85,000. Supplying a transport unit with a state-mandated heart monitor runs $24,000.
Other income, payment rates
The Morgan County Rescue Service also receives income from billing for its Advanced Life Support (ALS) and Basic Life Support (BLS) transport unit service. The county pays them about $22,300 for rent
for housing the sheriff's offices and for utilities reimbursement.
The county averages about five ambulance calls a day or 1,800 calls per year. Insurance payments come in at an average of around 57% of what is billed. Many clients do not have health insurance and cannot pay. Income from grants has dropped off since 9/11.
The County Commission approved a $25,000 loan to the Morgan County Rescue Service on June 1 to help them keep their doors open until the end of June. At the time, Corson hadn't been paid in two months and the electric was due to be shut off. Corson was finally able to cash one of his paychecks.