Morenci EMS service assessment to increase 04.28.10

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The Morenci Area EMS is faring better than ever in keeping its budget in line, reported coordinator Larry Weeks, but that doesn’t leave much money for ambulance replacement.

The EMS board is proposing a 10 percent increase in the assessment, with the additional cash placed in a fund for a new ambulance.

“We’ve done fairly well this year,” Weeks said. “We’re continuing to cut costs and use money wisely, but we cannot save enough to buy an ambulance.”

The 2003 primary ambulance has traveled 91,000 miles and the backup unit—a 1997 vehicle—has 153,000 miles of use. The 2003 model will paid off in January 2013.

Ambulance services typically use a unit for five years as the primary vehicle, then another five years as the secondary one. In areas with lower milage, such as Morenci’s situation, a vehicle may be used for 15 years. Weeks figures Morenci’s backup unit will reach 15 years before it is retire.

A 10 percent increase would cost Morenci residents and those from Seneca and Medina townships an additional $8.25 a year and $5.50 for apartment buildings and duplexes. The increase would bring in about $15,000 annually for ambulance replacement. A new vehicle costs from $120,000 to $150,000.

The increase for Morenci residents could be softened if council votes to pay off the sewer project bond early. That would reduce the tax bill by $120.

Weeks said there’s still confusion about how the ambulance service is funded. About half of the revenue comes from assessments and the other half from billing for services, either to insurance companies or directly to the user of the service.

“The special assessment only assures that the service is available,” he said, and is far short of covering the costs.

That’s why residents are billed when an ambulance is called. The cost typically varies between $500 and $1,200, depending on the service given.

Many communities fund the ambulance service through a millage that covers the majority of costs. Morenci’s system places less of the cost on taxpayers and more on the user.

Although Weeks is proud of how he and staff members have found ways to cut costs—this is the first budget year when borrowing wasn’t needed—he has concerns about finances due to the economy.

“Revenues are anticipated to decline due to high levels of unemployment and reduced health insurance benefits to so many people,” he said.

He will begin exploring grant possibilities to cover the cost of a new ambulance, but failing that, an increase in the assessment is the only option.

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    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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