Since July, the Jefferson County Ambulance Board has been trying to decide whether to extend a service contract with a local provider, or to start a new one with a different company outside of Fairfield.
By last week , the board had narrowed it down to two proposals; one from the local Jefferson County Area Ambulance and one with Midwest Ambulance Service of Iowa out of Urbandale. Jefferson County Area Ambulance's current service contract ends on September 30, so with the deadline looming, board members wanted to make a final decision at Monday's meeting.
And for a while, it seemed like they would not reach a consensus. With a board of four, the votes were split and a decision deadlocked for more than an hour. For most of those in attendance at Monday's meeting, there was no easy answer. Jefferson County Area Ambulance has a history of budget issues and their proposal was more expensive. Some sort of tax on some local entity would be necessary, should Jefferson County Area Ambulance's proposal be accepted.
Board members were also concerned that should they go with Jefferson County Area Ambulance, the company would not be able to sustain service for a long period of time. Even now, the company has barely enough employees to handle everything in the area. However, staying with the service guaranteed one huge benefit; it would keep money in the community and Fairfield residents employed.
On the other hand, Midwest Ambulance of Iowa brings along its own benefits and concerns. Could an out-of-area service be able to provide availability and high-quality service to an area they are not familiar with? The board members also held concerns when it came to taking the money that currently stays in the Fairfield community, and funneling it outside the area.
In the end, two members conceded and the board unanimously agreed to go with Midwest Ambulance of Iowa.
"Because we have local people that are providing a very good service and it had come down to who can sustain it over a period of time and I think the board's final decision was that Midwest was in the best position to do that over a four-year period," said Stephen Burgmeier, Board Chairman. "We were not unhappy with the local provider, but when you get a budget that has $300 in the black - when is the next time the subsidy would have to be different than it is today?"
Midwest will begin ambulance services for Jefferson County on October 1 -- immediately following the termination of Jefferson County's contract. Representatives from Midwest Ambulance of Iowa said they will hold an open interview process to consider employees of Jefferson County Area Ambulance who would be willing to work for a different provider, citing their experience with the area and the people as a huge benefit.
Matt Weaver, a Jefferson County Area Ambulance crew member, said during the meeting that around half of the current staff would be willing to switch.
Jefferson County Area Ambulance members declined to comment after the meeting adjourned.