By LeAnn R. Ralph
WHEELER — The Wheeler Village Board has approved retaining ambulance service for the village with the Colfax Rescue Squad.
Patrick Best and Matt Feeney, representing the Boyceville ambulance service, and Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, spoke to the Wheeler Village Board about ambulance service at the September 16 meeting.
Best and Feeney said it was not their intent to “sway” the board to change the ambulance service, but rather, to open up a dialogue with the Wheeler Village Board.
“This is not a competition with Colfax,” Feeney said.
“There is no intent to pull the rug out from under Don,” he said.
The distance from Boyceville to Wheeler is 6.6 miles, and the distance from Colfax to Wheeler is 10.7 miles. The distance for the ambulance could be important when seconds count, such as for a patient with cardiac issues, Feeney said.
Staffing an ambulance service with volunteers is difficult, so the Boyceville Ambulance District decided to pay for full-time coverage, with staff at the ambulance station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, he said.
After receiving a call, the Boyceville ambulance typically responds in less than five minutes, and the ambulance usually is out the door in two minutes, Feeney said.
Wheeler will pay an assessment to Colfax for the ambulance service in 2015 of $5,708 based on a per capita rate of $16.17.
Wheeler would pay a per capita rate to Boyceville of $5,212, Feeney said.
Based on a run assessment of calls to Wheeler, the village would pay an additional $24,000 to Boyceville for the ambulance service, he said.
Wheeler has a small population and a high call volume for EMS services, Feeney said.
The total assessment for Wheeler to have ambulance service with Boyceville would be close to $30,000.
A total of “$29,000 seems high. But response time is important, and the cost will come down after the new ambulance (station) is built,” Feeney said.
“Boyceville runs a good service. And response time does make a difference at times,” Knutson said.
The amount that is billed to the patient, or Medicare, or the patient’s insurance company, and the amount that the municipality pays for an assessment, covers the cost of the Colfax Rescue Squad, he said.
Knutson is the full-time director, and the Colfax Rescue Squad also has two 30-hour per week EMTs. The remaining EMTs who serve on the Colfax Rescue Squad are volunteers.
The volunteers are paid $3.50 per hour for being on call at the station, and they receive $20 or $30 per ambulance run if they are called out, Knutson said.
The volunteers are capped at $7,000 per year, and the Colfax service currently has 25 volunteers, he said.
People enrolled in the Chippewa Valley Technical College paramedic program often serve as volunteers at the Colfax Rescue Squad, Knutson said.
If there are not enough EMTs to go out on a call, Knutson will go himself, even if the call comes in on nights and weekends.
“We are usually out the door in three minutes, but if I have to come from home, then it’s probably five or six minutes before we are out the door,” he said.
The Colfax Rescue Squad is owned by the Village of Colfax and not an ambulance district. There are nine municipalities served by the Colfax Rescue Squad, Knutson said.
The per capita amount of $16.17 has stayed the same for the last three years, he noted.
James Carter, village president, said he has heard no complaints about either ambulance service.
“But we can’t afford to move (to a different ambulance) service on our Wheeler budget,” he said.
“I’ve never heard anything bad about Boyceville. I’ve never heard anything bad about Colfax,” said Robin Goodell, village clerk-treasurer.
Village trustees Linda Crosby and Marlene Larson agreed that they had never heard any complaints about either ambulance service.
Crosby and Larson also agreed that on Wheeler’s limited budget, the village could not afford to pay $30,000 in assessments for the ambulance service with Boyceville, compared to the $6,000 paid for the Colfax ambulance service.
Last November, the Wheeler Village Board approved a total budget for 2014 of $199,916.
The ending balance in Wheeler’s general fund for August was $68,065.
The Colfax Rescue Squad’s proposed budget for 2015 is $439,000.
Earlier this month, the Boyceville Ambulance District approved a budget of $388,000 for 2015.
The Boyceville ambulance service covers seven municipalities.
The Colfax Rescue Squad serves nine municipalities.
The Wheeler Village Board unanimously approved a motion to maintain ambulance service for the village with the Colfax Rescue Squad.
In other business, the Wheeler Village Board approved an application for a Class B beer and Class B liquor license, a cigarette license, an annual dance permit and operators’ licenses for Bob and Kim Minor for the Wheel-er Inn.
The Wheeler Village Board also learned that the state had done an inspection of the election facility and that Wheeler will have to replace the back door on the village hall and fix the concrete slab outside the back door.
Goodell said she had ordered a new door for the village hall the day of the village board meeting and that the concrete would be fixed next spring.