by Malcolm Butler
After months of meetings, research and debates, the Ambulance Committee voted 7-3-1 in favor of recommending the City of Ruston’s proposal to the Lincoln Parish Police Jury as the choice for the ambulance and rescue in the parish.
This occurred this morning during the latest Ambulance Committee meeting held in the Jack Beard Room of the Lincoln Parish Library.
Ambulance Committee members who voted in favor of recommending the City of Ruston included Mona Wilson, Reggie Skains, Milton Melton, Dr. Jackie White, Mike Rainwater, Bill Sanderson, and Tommy Clark. Richard Durrett, Charlie Edwards and Stephen Yeich voted against the proposal. Richard Aillet abstained. Annette Straughter and Walter Carpenter were absent from the meeting.
It’s now up to the 12-members of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury to vote for it in the next meeting. The next meeting is currently scheduled for Oct. 11 but LPPJ Administrator Doug Postel mentioned at the conclusion of this morning’s meeting that a special session could be called in order to expedite the vote.
Lincoln Parish Fire District Chief Kevin Reynolds presented the proposal from the parish fire department at the beginning of this morning’s meeting. The proposal was for a 5-year agreement for the Fire District to handle all rescue within Lincoln Parish but outside of the city limits of Ruston.
The Lincoln Parish Fire District’s proposal included the following costs:
Year No. 1 – $478,000 – operating costs only
Year No. 2 – $815,000 – operating costs ($478,000) + rescue truck ($125,000) + equipment ($212,000)
Year No. 3 – $691,000 – operating costs ($478,000) + rescue truck ($125,000) + equipment ($88,000)
Year No. 4 – $625,000 – operating costs ($500,000) + rescue truck ($125,000)
Year No. 5 – $625,000 – operating costs ($500,000) + rescue truck ($125,000)
Reynolds did say that the costs for additional rescue equipment that was originally discussed had been covered by some grants. He also said that additional grants would be pursued to help cover some of the capital costs in subsequent years.
The Lincoln Parish Fire Districts proposal for rescue combined with Pafford EMS’ proposal of $360,000 per year for the ambulance services would take the combined total to a range of between $838,000 in year No. 1 to as high as 1,175,000.00 in year No. 2.
The City of Ruston’s proposal which includes both ambulance and rescue was a five-year contract costing $645,604 in Year No. 1 and then increasing annually based on the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (Southwest Region) each subsequent year.
The biggest concern by some members of the committee, city officials and some residents at the meeting was in the ability of the Fire District to hire and train additional personnel in time for when the proposal would take effect on the January 1 date.
Although Reynolds said he felt the Lincoln Parish Fire District could quickly get to where he needed to be from a trained staff standpoint, the concerns by the majority of the committee members remained.
Lincoln Parish Sheriff Stephen Williams addressed the committee during the public comments portion in regards to the proposal – prior to the vote.
“I have worked with the fire departments here and the ambulance services for three decades, side by side with them day and night on the interstate, train wrecks, whatever,” said Williams. “What you are asking Chief Reynolds to do … you are setting him up for failure.
“I have to make a lot of hard decisions in the sheriff’s office. This is an easy one. I think you should take the 5-year contract with the city. In the meantime, figure out how you can get some more money funneled to your fire department and your rescue and build them up. Give them a chance to succeed.
“But what you are doing right now is you are setting them up for failure and you are putting them at risk. And I can’t just sit back and be quiet about that anymore.”
Williams wasn’t the only one who expressed his opinion during the public comments portion as police jury member Logan Hunt also spoke along the same lines.
There was an overriding sentiment by even the committee members who voted in favor of the city to help find ways to increase funding for the Fire District, thus setting the stage for future discussions on them taking over rescue once they are better staffed and equipped.
This will mark the second time the Ambulance Committee has recommended the City of Ruston’s proposal to the police jury. Back during the July meeting, the police jury voted 6-3 against the proposal.
However, since then, a number of jurors who voted no have publicly expressed that they were caught off guard by the $645,604 figure that was presented to them that night. And that they wanted more information about options before making a decision.
That process has now occurred and it will be in the police jury members hands come October.
Individuals are encouraged to reach out to their respective police jury representatives to voice their opinions prior to the vote.
The Lincoln Parish Journal will have more coverage on this in Friday’s edition.
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