Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Panel mulls ambulance, rescue options

Sunday, May 15, 2022
Article Image Alt Text

The parish Ambulance Service Committee continues to look at ways to provide — and pay for — emergency medical and rescue service outside the Ruston city limits.

The committee, composed of representatives from the Lincoln Parish Police Jury, each parish municipality, the Lincoln Parish Fire Protection District No. 1 and an at-large member, hopes to make a decision by June 30.

But some members say that’s unlikely, given that the group won’t meet again until June 9.

“This whole process needs to be extremely well thought out,” Police Juror Logan Hunt said during Thursday’s committee meeting.

At issue is how the parish is going to raise money to pay for whatever service it decides it wants.

In February, the police jury voted to pay the city of Ruston $120,000 for the Ruston Fire Department to continue providing parish-wide EMS and rescue service. But the agreement is only for this year.

Thursday’s discussion included questions about splitting the emergency services between RFD and the parish fire district, with Ruston providing EMS and the parish fire district tending to rescue.

The district has one rescue unit but no ambulances.

The committee asked Ruston Fire Chief Chris Womack to bring back a cost for EMS service only, and parish fire Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Aillet to do likewise for rescue service.

The panel also wants to know the process for asking electric utility providers in the parish to allow an emergency service fee to be added to customers’ bills.

Several members said Thursday they believe RFD provides the best service.

“I don’t think it will work if you try to split it up,” Grambling Police Chief Tommy Clark said.

“I think we’re trying to reinvent the wheel, and we shouldn’t be doing that,” Simsboro representative Stephen Yeich said.

Yeich said the group should be working on what it’s going to say to parish residents.

For RFD to continue both EMS and rescue coverage outside the city will cost approximately $645,600 annually, according to Womack’s figures. In 2021, approximately 39% of RFD’s emergency medical calls were in the parish.

Womack said in order to meet the call volume and maintain quality parish wide service, RFD needs to hire six more people plus buy an additional rescue truck and probably two ambulances. City firefighters are cross-trained in EMS.

Jury President Richard Durrett asked if an ambulance could be staged in the parish, rather than coming of Ruston.

“That’s not an option for the fire department,” Womack said. “I will not dedicate anything strictly to the parish.”

For almost 30 years, RFD has been providing EMS, rescue and hazardous materials service parish wide, for which the police jury has paid $30,000 annually.

That amount no lon ger covers the cost of the service, Womack said.

Salary and benefits for an entry-level firefighter are about $50,000 a year, he said. A new fully equipped rescue truck costs around $440,000 and an ambulance, $225,000, Womack said.

In January of this year, Ruston told the jury it would continue providing the services but for $120,000 a year plus a 5% annual increase instead of the former $30,000 annually. At the time, city officials said there was no room for negotiation.

By Jan. 31, the city had withdrawn its offer and told the jury ambulance service would end outside Ruston on June 1. But by February, the city and parish had reached the current contract.

Durrett said all parish municipalities must agree on whatever service option is eventually chosen.

“I just want to make sure everybody understands we need to all be together,” he said.