Turn back clock on ambulances

I don’t belong to any regular coffee klatch in town, but the rumblings are reaching the Register that we are to be saddled with two ambulance services — forever.
Most wonder why commissioners didn’t leave well enough alone when they had a coordinated system that operated out of the fire station on North Washington Street.
Well, it wasn’t so good for everyone, especially those in the outlying towns who depended on volunteer departments. Those towns now fall under the umbrella of county emergency services. And yes, property taxes were raised for the additional, and likely better-trained, manpower.
The county used the same reasoning for Iola; saying it could provide better coverage through better-trained staff. That got to splitting hairs, considering both de-partments had exceptional crews.
The difference is that Iola’s ambulance crew also serves as its firefighters.
If the county were to assume control of Iola’s ambulance service, then that would force Iola’s fire department to become a volunteer department. There’s simply not enough area emergencies that require firefighters to support a full-time department. So then Iola would continue to have a good ambulance service, but a reduced-quality firefighting department. Say what you will, but a volunteer staff can never keep its skills honed as well as those employed full time with regular professional training.
So this puts us at a stalemate that has become a roadblock to discussing other important issues, including our hospital, and has sent the county on a spending spree to build not only an ambulance barn but also an emergency operations center and a place to house 911 services.
To date, the county has nothing to show for it except an empty lot in Gas and a vacated building in Iola. That’s a good thing. For it means until the first footing is poured there is still time to negotiate a joint service between city and county emergency personnel and perhaps rethink the need for all these buildings.
Right now, four ambulances are stationed in Iola — two on East Street in a makeshift building and two at the IFD. If the proposed ambulance barn on North State Street is built, that will put the four vehicles within three blocks of each other. But no matter where the vehicles are housed, it’s overkill.
Sad to say, Iola and Allen County are losing population, not growing. Having two ambulance services for the area is a redundancy. We are creating too many positions for too few needs and asking for additional buildings when we can make do with what we have.
Humboldt’s proposal for the county’s 911 services to be located in the basement of its new location in the old Emprise Bank made perfect sense. It was in a storm-proof setting right below the town’s police department. Surely, that would be a cost savings compared to having to renovate an entirely new location on North State.
The EOC in the county law enforcement center is adequate. No, it’s not state-of-the art, but geez, the jail complex is only five years old. Surely, it’s a nice enough location.

AS FOR the number of ambulances, let’s go back to where we were. The two ambulances stationed on North Washington are plenty for this side of the county. Because Iola firefighters also respond to emergencies in the Iola rural district, that takes care of the north and west sides of the county. With ambulances stationed in Moran and Humboldt, the east and south are covered. It has never been demonstrated that the county was underserved with ambulances. There is no reason to think that would be the case now if we went back to the number we had before this urge to spend and build erupted.
The coverage would be adequate, the savings to taxpayers would be considerable, and the public praise of commissioners would be overwhelming.

— Susan Lynn