ROCK SPRINGS — After much discussion, the Rock Springs City Council decided it did not have the funding available to help Sweetwater County fund the ambulance service and is asking the Sweetwater County Commission to extend its contacts with both ambulance services until June 1, 2021.
The Council unanimously approved writing a letter to the commissioners letting them know they would like to continue working together to find a solution for ambulance service funding, however it cannot help fund the service at this time. Rock Springs Mayor Tim Kaumo said he will also ask the Commissioners to extend those contracts to June 2021 to give the organizations more time to try and come up with a short-term funding solution.
Prior to any discussion on the matter, the Council reviewed how they got to this point. At the Council’s March 2 meeting, the Council was asked by the Sweetwater County Commission to help fund the ambulance service.
Both the Rock Springs and Green River city councils were informed that if they didn’t help fund the ambulance service Sweetwater Medics will stop responding to 911 calls starting April 1, 2021. Castle Rock Ambulance will probably have enough funding for another nine months of operation.
All of this is in to response to the Sweetwater County Commissioners announcing back in December they were terminating service contracts and all associated funding with those contracts with Sweetwater Medics and Castle Rock Ambulance Service, effective March 31, 2021.
According to Sweetwater County Commissioner Jeff Smith, it costs $1.28 million to fund the county’s ambulance service. Sweetwater Medics costs about $944,000, while Castle Rock Ambulance costs about $348,000. Smith said the county would pay 50 percent, which would be $693,792, and the remaining 50 percent would be split between Green River and Rock Springs. Green River would be responsible for one-third, or $213,264, of the funding, while Rock springs, would be responsible for two-thirds or $423,528.
Rock Springs Councilor Tim Robinson who was recently assigned to the joint ambulance committee said a study on the ambulance service was completed in 2015 and again in 2019 which came to the conclusion that the Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County should run the ambulance service, however that has not happened. Robinson said he’s not trying to point fingers, but just report the findings of those studies.
Robinson said he’s reviewed all of the information on this issue that he could to help give the Council a recommendation. He came to the conclusion that they can work on a long-term goal, but the city can’t help with a short-term goal due to budget issues it is currently facing. The city has asked all departments and organizations it funds to cut their budget requests by 30 percent.
Essentially, they are asking us for a lot of money when we don’t have it…~Councilor Tim Robinson said.
Robinson said they only had three months to even try and come up with a short-term solution and that’s not enough time.
“I am willing, as a Council member, to continue with the committee on a long-term goal, but I do not feel that immediate funding prior to June 31 is realistic from the city finance side,” Robinson said.
Mayor Kaumo said they all can agree this is an essential service, but they don’t have the funding to help at this time.
“It was not handled properly. They’ve stated themselves they’ve been working on it for two years and they dump it on us basically in two months,” Councilor Keaton West said. “That’s not working together. That’s not good governance I guess in my opinion. But politics aside, the fact of the matter is we don’t have the funding.”
West said the city sales and use tax payment is down 45 percent in March 2021 from what is was in March of 2020. He didn’t even know if the city could find the nearly $424,000 by 2022.
After more discussion, Mayor Kaumo offered to draft a letter to the Commission letting them know they city cannot afford to fund the ambulance service in the short-term, but would like to look at long-term solutions. The letter will also ask the Commission to extend the ambulance service contracts through June 2021 to give all entities more time to come up with a short-term plan.
I think the Board of County Commissioners owes that to the people of the county to go out to June, because their lack of performance has put us in this position.~Counclor Brent Bettolo
However, West said he didn’t think the city would be able to help fund the service this year even if they extended the date.
Robinson said he and Green River City Councilwoman Sherry Bushman came up with an idea on how to fund the Castle Rock Ambulance Service to serve all of Sweetwater County through June 2021. They thought they would split the cost evenly between the city of Rock Springs, the city of Green River, and MHSC. Each group would pay $50,000 for the service, which would help the county cover the cost.
However, Robinson made it clear this was just an idea they had and neither he nor Bushman have approached the Commission about it. He said Sweetwater Medics could also have a plan similar to this one.
Robinson said they can come up with all the ideas they want, but they are not on the contract so they can’t make those decisions.
Councilor David Halter said everyone he has talked to has told him the city needs to help fund the ambulance service. He asked how much an ambulance costs and how much it would cost Rock Springs to run a service of its own. Rock Springs Fire Department Chief Jim Wamsley said it costs about $750,000 for an ambulance and the city of Rock Springs would need at least two.
“Personally, I think we need to do something,” Halter said. “I agree completely with Councilman Robinson and West. We were thrown under the bus on this.”
While all of the Councilors agreed the service is essential, they also know they cannot fund it at this time.
To watch the complete discussion see the video below.