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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Rescue Squad has been awarded an Emergency Medical Services Flex grant in the amount of $105,915 to put toward a new ambulance or for a stretcher autoload device and updated computers or other equipment.
The money comes from Wisconsin-applied federal COVID funds, and Colfax asked for $238,000, said Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad, at the Colfax Village Board’s September 26 meeting.
The state of Wisconsin decided to make an award of 40 percent of the “ask” to all of the ambulance services that applied, he said.
The Colfax Rescue Squad — and ultimately, the village board, since the ambulance service is owned by the village — has two options, Knutson said.
One option would be to apply the grant money toward the purchase of a new ambulance, he said.
The money must be spent by June of 2024, and some ambulance manufacturers are pushing two years before they can a deliver an ambulance that has been ordered, Knutson said.
The date when Colfax actually takes delivery on the ambulance would not matter as long as the grant money has been spent by the time of the grant deadline.
As is true of many kinds of purchases, when a municipality orders a piece of large equipment, such as an ambulance or a plow truck, the municipality makes a down payment, arranges for whatever financing is needed for the remainder, writes out a check to the dealer or manufacturer to pay for the equipment and then begins making payments according to the debt service agreement with the bank.
The other option would be to replace the cots in the ambulances and the defibrillators, Knutson said.
The grant money would be received in two different pay-outs, and the second part of the money would be awarded in February, he said.
Knutson has a deadline of October 10 to specify what the grant money will be put toward.
If Knutson notifies the state that Colfax is buying an ambulance but then does not go through with buying a new ambulance, the money would have to be returned to the state, he said.
Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, said she had sent an e-mail message to Ehlers and Associates, the village’s financial consultant, to ask about the amount of Colfax’s remaining debt capacity.
According to state law, municipalities can borrow up to 5 percent of their equalized value.
Colfax has not yet financed the street projects for Tax Increment District 5, and the village board will have to decide how much to finance, Niggemann said.
To meet the October 10 deadline, the village board will have to decide what to do about ordering a new ambulance at the next regular meeting or will have to hold a special meeting, said Gary Stene, village trustee.
If the information can be submitted to the state by, say, 11:59 p.m. October 10, then the village board could decide at the next meeting, Niggemann said.
If the deadline is earlier in the day, then it would not work to make a decision at the next village board meeting, she said.
A new ambulance would cost around $315,000. The grant is for $105,915, and the Rescue Squad had $53,000 in the fund balance at the end of 2021, and may have another fund balance of $45,000 at the end of 2022, meaning that the village would have to finance the purchase for $112,000, she said.
Knutson said he had done some research about current bids on ambulances, and various ambulance services have reported current bids on new ambulances of $315,000.
If Colfax pays something down on a new ambulance, that would lock in the price, he said.
Stene said in his opinion, the village board should have a special meeting about the possible ambulance purchase so the decision could be made in plenty of time to allow Knutson the opportunity to let the state know how the grant money would be spent.
If a new ambulance is ordered, Colfax could put $100,000 down to lock in the price using grant money and Colfax Rescue Squad fund balance money, said Anne Jenson, village trustee.
The Colfax Village Board approved holding a special meeting on October 3 at 7 p.m. to discuss the possible purchase of a new ambulance.
Jenson said she very much approved of holding a special meeting.
“It makes me nervous to wait until the last minute and risk losing $105,000,” she said.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved a driveway permit for the new duplexes at 1005 High Street for Luke Ciszewski. According to information from Ciszewski in the village board packet, the driveway will remain gravel until the third duplex is completed, and then the driveway will be paved. The cost of the driveway permit is $5.
• Accepted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in the amount of $7,000 for the Colfax Police Department. Colfax Police Chief William Anderson has a wide variety of items that the money can be used for, Niggemann said.
• Accepted the low bid of $13,818 from Senn Blacktop for patches on Park Drive between Viking Bowl and the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center and on Railroad Avenue near the Colfax Messenger office.
• Approved updates to Title 9 Public Utilities Chapter 1 and 2 for water and sewer utilities, based on recommendations from the public works committee, to allow for the correction of typographical errors and updates or previously-adopted rate changes in the water utility ordinance Title 9, Chapter 1; adopt the sewer ordinance amendment 2022-03 with approved rate changes; adopt updated construction/access application with approved rate changes.