Debate over Pafford-parish or city precedes committees vote

By Malcolm Butler

Ultimately, the Ambulance Committee voted in favor of recommending to the Lincoln Parish Police Jury the City of Ruston’s five-year proposal during Thursday mornings meeting in the Jack Beard Room of the Lincoln Parish Library. 

The 7-3-1 vote in favor of the City of Ruston’s proposal came after an hour of back and forth debates, and even at times what was referred to as “personal agendas.”

But after the smoke cleared, the Ambulance Committee completed the task that it was asked to fulfill by the police jury. 

However, it didn’t come without strong debate following the presentation of the proposal by Lincoln Parish First District Chief Kevin Reynolds.

Committee member Dr. Jackie White voiced her thoughts on the two options.

“Even if (the First District) had everyone hired by Jan. 1,” said White. “Even if they were exactly equal on both sides: Ruston doing rescue and ambulance; Pafford doing ambulance and the Fire District doing rescue. Even if they were that way … if you look at the cost over five years, Ruston is costing about $3.5 million. Pafford and the Lincoln Parish Fire District (is costing) about $5 million. 

“It can’t get any more simple than that. But even if we don’t get to there, the service is not the same. And it’s going to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Reynolds provided the Fire District’s stance. 

“Here is where I stand on the cost,” said Reynolds. “When this was originally presented there was no question of can we have the taxpayers pay more money. It was they are going to pay more money. At least this way they have an option of where that money goes. 

“At the end of this the parish residents can either buy the city of Ruston a fire truck or they can buy the parish a fire truck. They can support their own fire department or the city fire department.”

Logan Hunt, the representative for District 5 as a member of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury, spoke during the public comments section of Thursday’s meeting. Hunt preceded his point by stating he had worked in the fire and EMS world since he was 18-year old; more than 21 years with various units including Pafford EMS, the Choudrant Volunteer Department, the Lincoln Parish Fire District and the Shreveport Fire Department.

Hunt’s words were to the point. They were in direct reference to the discrepancy in the City of Ruston’s 3-man emergency crews compared to Pafford EMS’ 2-man crews, a point of contention throughout the Ambulance Committee meetings. 

There has been some debate over whether a piece of on-board machinery referred to as a “thumper,” which provides CPR services, could serve the same purpose as a third human on emergency vehicles.

“How many of you have worked a code?,” said Hunt. “Where somebody … is dying because they have been involved in trauma. I have. And there are a lot of men in the back of this room that have. And it’s not a lot of fun. And it’s really not fun if you are the only one in the back of that truck by yourself. You cannot replace … you can’t even put a price tag on an additional man in the back of a truck. 

“You really can’t put a price tag on it if he’s a paramedic. That’s two large IV’s … one in each arm. You need two people back there. You got CPR going. IV’s. You are pushing drugs. You are patching holes. This guy is bleeding out. You can’t do it (with just two) … from a service standpoint.”

Hunt, like many who have spoken — committee members, public officials and citizens — stressed the importance of the working relationships and the vital roles that Pafford EMS and the Lincoln Parish Fire District play in Lincoln Parish’s high-level ambulance and rescue formula.

“Pafford is integral in our emergency response in this community,” said Hunt. “And when I say integral, I mean extremely integral. … That is one of the most integral pieces of emergency medicine that is out there at Ruston Regional in orange and white and blue, and we need that. And they are handling all of our non-emergency calls so Ruston Fire Department can do what they do. And they are backing each other up.”

Grambling Fire Chief Tommy Clark, who is also a member of the Ambulance Committee, also had a strong opinion.

“I am concerned we are going to toy around with this, we are going to come to an agreement, and we are going to put the Fire District in a position that they don’t need to be in for things they can’t control,” said Clark referring to supply chain delays. “And we are going to have services sitting in Ruston. But because of somebody’s personal agenda and feeling like their feelings are hurt … somebody is going to die … and I don’t want to be a part of that.”

At one point during the meeting, Ambulance Committee member and LPPJ Vice President Milton Melton made a proposal to submit all three proposals (Pafford EMS, Lincoln Parish Fire District, and City of Ruston) to the police jury without a recommendation. 

This brought on another debate. 

“It’s going to be Ruston’s proposal or it’s going to be the Pafford/Lincoln Parish (Fire District) proposal. We have been tasked with making a recommendation, not passing the buck on this,” said Choudrant Mayor and committee member Bill Sanderson. 

“I just cannot fathom passing the buck to the police jury,” said Hunt. “And I cannot fathom this committee not taking action and standing up and saying this is what we think. You have medical doctors here. You have mayors of the municipalities. In what has been discussed, their citizens are going to be paying for this as well. 

“In my mind if this committee doesn’t vote then the medical doctor doesn’t have a say so in it. The mayor of Choudrant doesn’t have a say so in it. The mayor of Downsville. The mayor of Dubach don’t have a say so in it. They are trusting their police jurors to make that decision. I would ask why would you put a mayor on this committee if you didn’t want (their) input on it.”

Melton’s proposal was voted down 7-3-1, thus setting the stage for Sanderson’s proposal of recommending the City of Ruston’s proposal to the LPPJ.

It was also stated by members of the committee that if the LPPJ jury votes to sign the contract with the city, that a funding source needs to be found to help the Lincoln Parish Fire District become better staffed and equipped with the potential for it to take over rescue services in the parish in the future. 

“I am absolutely not in favor of anything that leaves Lincoln Parish (Fire District) high and dry,” said Sanderson. “They desperately need support from the residents of Lincoln Parish … for them to move forward. They are in desperate need of our support financially.”

One thing that is still unclear in all of this is how the police jury and ultimately the parish citizens will fund whatever is ultimately decided upon.