SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Sweetwater County Commissioners announced Tuesday that they will terminate service contracts and all associated funding with those contracts with Sweetwater Medics and Castle Rock Ambulance Service, effective March 31, 2021.
The commissioners unanimously approved letters to both Sweetwater Medics and Castle Rock that will notify the agencies of the terminated contracts.
The Commissioners cite economic hardships and continued failure to find solutions for ambulance service funding for the reasons to terminate the contracts. The termination of contracts does not mean Sweetwater Medics and Castle Rock will not be able to provide services to the county, but rather means they will need to find funding from other sources.
Commissioner Jeff Smith said he has worked with a group for the past one and a half years to try to find solutions to address the “ever-increasing expenses” for providing ambulance services, “with no good answers.”
“The proposals the group received to continue providing ambulance service ranged from $1.2 million and $1.7 million each year with no financial promise of anything but increasing expenses in the future, which is unsustainable for us,” Commissioner Smith said.
Smith added that many commissions in the past have also tried to find solutions to funding ambulance service in the county with no success.
“In the financial climate we face today and going forward, expending more and more on services that are not part of core government is a decision that we cannot accept,” he said.
Though ambulance service is an important and necessary service, Smith said, it is not a required service to be funded by the government.
Commissioner Smith said this termination of contracts is in no way a statement against Sweetwater Medics and Castle Rock for the services they provide.
“Both have provided excellent and compassionate service to county residents and many traveling in our county for years,” Smith said. “Rather it is a statement regarding the financial position of the county and our responsibility as commissioners to deal with our current financial shortfall.”
Chairman Randy “Doc” Wendling said the county is currently looking at a $6 million or more shortfall in the county budget. They have once again offered early retirement plans to county employees to try to cut back on costs, which Wendling noted to point out the tough financial situations they are seeing.
Wendling also reminded county residents that the budget was approved for the last fiscal year due to a carryover and nearly $5 million taken out of reserves.
“The revenue shortage for our budget is deep and it’s real,” Wendling said.
The other commissioners also agreed that though ambulance services are important, cuts are necessary.
“With the extreme budget constraints we’re faced with now and are going to be faced with, cuts need to be made,” Commissioner Wally Johnson said.
Commissioner Smith and Commissioner Roy Lloyd both said other funding sources will need to be explored, and other local governments should step up to help figure out funding solutions.
“We ask our elected partners in Rock Springs, Green River, and the smaller communities throughout our county to join us in shouldering the financial burden in finding solutions to continue this lifesaving service,” Commissioner Smith said. “As a county, we cannot do it alone.”
Read the commissioners’ full statement below.