The St. Maries City Council made no decision on whether to relinquish ownership of the St. Maries Ambulance, which is jointly owned between the city and county.
The item was not on the agenda for the council’s meeting Monday night, Jan. 10. However, Tom Goodall, a commissioner for the St. Maries Fire District, was on the agenda to bring his concerns to the council about the decision. Goodall also spoke with the Benewah County Commissioners at their meeting earlier the same day.
Goodall brought similar concerns to the St. Maries City Council as he did the Benewah County Commissioners. St. Maries Fire Chief Lance Homann did not attend as he is ill. The primary discussion at the city’s meeting centered on the need for paramedics in the county.
Council members did not discuss whether they should approve handing the entity over to Benewah County, but rather asked questions of those at the meeting. The majority of the conversation was answers to councilmen’s questions.
As part of its ten-year-plan, the St. Maries Fire District hopes to add paramedics to its staff and to have them available. Goodall said paramedics are vital in rural areas such as Benewah County more so than Coeur d’Alene.
Goodall said the ordinance is “limiting” and questioned language, which states the ordinance, as it stands now, impacts the hospital and Valley Vista because it says no emergent or non-emergent transfers can be done without the county commissioner approval.
He said the ordinance for ambulance service, which the commissioners approved, negatively impacts the St. Maries Fire District as it looks to expand EMS services in the future by adding paramedics.
Goodall said as it stands now the St. Maries Ambulance has to have a nurse ride along for paramedic transports or have Kootenai respond. Again, he suggested having an ambulance staffed by the St. Maries Fire District.
Commissioner Phil Lampert said Benewah County is not opposed to working with other ambulance service providers under mutual aid agreements; that is happening now. He said the county does have the right under Idaho Code to approve if another ambulance service is allowed to operate or not. The provision, he said, prevents ambulance providers such as AMR (American Medical Response) from coming in and setting up their own service.
Lampert said the county is looking to “clear up” the problems that have existed since the UpRiver Ambulance stopped operating to make sure the county is adequately covered. He said it was his hope the city would decide at their meeting Jan. 10, but said the item was apparently left off as office staff changes.
Goodall said he believed a task force should have been formed to discuss the matter and look at alternate options. When council members asked St. Maries Ambulance Director Kristin Compton about having a paramedic licensed with St. Maries Ambulance, she said it is not feasible.
Compton said once a paramedic is on board the license changes which the ambulance operates under. With the higher level of license, she would have to keep a paramedic on call at all times and a paramedic would have to go along on every call. She said paramedics traditionally earn anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 each year.
She said out of almost 700 calls only a fraction of them requires a paramedic’s level of training and her EMT’s are capable for most of what comes across the scanner. In addition, Compton said Life Flight is very quick to respond to those types of calls.
Michael Ebert, who is an EMT with St. Maries Ambulance, also expressed it is not necessary to have a paramedic working. He said if there is a situation that arises that requires such a level the patient will likely be flown from Benewah Community Hospital to Kootenai. He said there was no reason to have a paramedic on ambulance only for them to be taken from the scene to the hospital and then to be flown out when Life Flight can meet them on scene and take them from the scene directly to Kootenai.
Compton added she had no idea Homann was planning on “building his own agency.” She said she had heard about it from some of the firefighters, but did not know it was “actually happening.”
She said the St. Maries Ambulance has always had a “great relationship with fire” and “valued the idea of being able to utilize them on the scene” and have that “for the community.” She added the St. Maries Ambulance is self-sustained. She said the ambulance is not here to “hurt people” or for “their money.” Ambulance funds are generated by the calls they go on.
She added if fire does start doing medical, they will have to bill and if they don’t bill taxes would have to go up. She said in that situation an individual would get billed twice and that seemed “pointless.”
She finished by saying “if we could have talked about this” she thought they could have come to “agreement.” She added they have always invited fire to go on ambulance calls and already utilize EMTs on the fire department as they are on “our shift already.”
Celia Sibert, city treasurer, said she was also concerned about taxes increasing if the St. Maries Fire District decided to create an ambulance service. Goodall said he did not think additional levies would be needed unless services were to increase drastically.
Bill Cowin asked about oversight for the ambulance once it was transferred over entirely to the county’s hands. Presently, a committee oversees operation with different stakeholders sitting as members. Lampert said he did not know if the county would continue to have a similar committee as it had not been decided upon by all three commissioners or really discussed.
“We are not going to solve this tonight,” Mayor Tom Carver said. “But I am glad there were different people here to talk about it.”
• • •
As the city of St. Maries’ former attorney, Mariah Dunham, pursues the county prosecuting attorney position the council voted to retain Andy Doman of Lake City Law for the remainder of the fiscal year. Doman agreed to the terms of the contract the city had in place with Dunham for the time being.
• • •
Ed Spooner was voted as council president. Jaidyn Reynolds was appointed as city clerk; Skyler Harrison was appointed as public works director; Celia Sibert was appointed as city treasurer; and Doman was appointed as city attorney. Councilmen Doug Ryan, Randy Saunders and Steve Dorendorf will serve on the administration committee. Sabrina Powell, Laci Hanson and Spooner will serve on the public works committee.
• • •
Payments approved included one of the final payments for HDR Engineering for Railroad Avenue totaling approximately $5,199; payments to HMH Engineering for $4,245 (phase two sewer project) and $17,297 (phase two construction inspection project); and payments to DG&S for roads ($6,594), water ($3,834), and sewer ($173,313). Jesse Herndon, of HMH, also said he was looking at more possible grants for the city to apply for to replace lead pipes.
• • •
The city adopted an ordinance to officially state speed limits in town will be 10 miles per hour in alleys, 15 miles per hour in school zones (the exception is Main Avenue, which travels at the front of Heyburn School and is considered a state highway). All others areas in town will be 25 miles per hour unless posted.