GREEN RIVER – The Green River City Council were told tonight that they will have to help fund county-wide ambulance services or else Sweetwater Medics will no longer have the funding to respond to 911 calls.
Sweetwater County Commissioner Jeff Smith presented the Council with a letter that requests the City of Green River and the City of Rock Springs provide 50 percent of the funding, while the County covers the other half. Green River would be responsible for one-third of the cities’ portion of the funding while Rock springs would be responsible for two-thirds. The request from the ambulance providers to provide the service for fiscal year 2021-2022 is about $1.2 million.
The Sweetwater County Commissioners announced in December 2020 they would no longer be able to fund ambulance services without help from the cities. The Commissioners are terminating the current service contracts and all associated funding with Sweetwater Medics and Castle Rock Ambulance Service on March 31, 2021.
While a committee was formed in January to search for solutions for funding ambulance services in the county, no longterm solutions have been found yet. Therefore, the County’s solution to split funding with the cities is the current solution as they continue searching for a longterm plan.
Councilwoman Sherry Bushman is one of the committee members and she gave a brief presentation of what the committee has been working on thus far. She said in previous discussions with the committee, they talked about Green River covering 50 percent of Castle Rock’s funding, while the County cover the other 50 percent, and Rock Springs would fund 50 percent of Sweetwater Medics’ funding with the County covering the other half.
However, Commissioner Smith said that while Bushman favored that option, Rock Springs City Councilor Tim Robinson was not in favor of that. While Castle Rock needs $174,000 to operate, Sweetwater Medics needs $465,000, so Sweetwater Medics is the more expensive entity to fund.
Councilman Gary Killpack asked what happens if the cities don’t agree to pay half of the funding, and Commissioner Smith explained that Sweetwater Medics would stop responding to 911 calls on April 1. Additionally, Smith added that Castle Rock said they can only operate for about nine months with the funds they have on hand. After that, they would need more funding, of which the County would no longer be providing.
“So people will just get sick and die?” Killpack asked. “That’s not a good solution.”
“And that’s why we brought this one to you. This one sounds a little better,” Smith said.
Killpack also asked why the County is choosing to present this request now, and not in years previous. Commissioner Smith said that Sweetwater Medics’ request this past year was a 36 percent increase, and that the County cannot keep funding that alone.
Killpack said that he assumes if the cities don’t agree, the ambulance providers will privatize. Commissioner Smith said that may be true, however, Sweetwater Medics is already a private company. Additionally, Smith added that no matter who takes over ambulance services, it will still need a subsidy from the local governments.
“Everybody needs some subsidy,” Smith said.
Smith said that there are simply not enough calls in the area to fund two services, so long-term solutions will still need to be found.
“We want to have this service while spending the least amount of money,” Smith said.
Mayor Pete Rust said the Council would discuss their options and would have a decision for the County Commissioners by their next meeting, as they understand the County contracts will be terminated at the end of the month. However, he said they were not prepared to make an immediate decision.
At the end of the meeting, Councilman Killpack said he is “disturbed” by how the County is handling this issue. He pointed out that the County has probably budgeted to fund ambulance services through the fiscal year, but they are making the Council make a decision in two weeks.
He wondered if the City could just handle Green River’s ambulance service and then bill the County with any calls in Jamestown or out toward Little America.
“They’re giving us two weeks to make a decision and they’ve been working on it for two years. I don’t like that,” Killpack said.