When the City of Morenci took over ownership of the local ambulance service late in 2001 and financial assistance was obtained from the townships, no one knew for certain how the effort would turn out.
“It might sound strange, but when we were putting it together, it was just everybody’s guess,” council member Keith Pennington said at Monday’s meeting.
The financial pledges from the city and townships combined with revenue from the services provided might be enough to cover costs or they might fall short of what was needed.
There’s been no increase in the assessments charged to residents in the seven years of coverage, Pennington noted, so the initial guesswork was close.
However, as costs increase, the break-even margin gets slimmer and slimmer.
Pennington reported to council Monday of a request by the Morenci Area EMS Advisory Board for financial help in paying off a $15,000 line of credit used for short-term needs.
The fund is often used while waiting for Medicare reimbursement.
The loan account is generally near the maximum allowed, he said, and the board wants to pay it off and start fresh.
Payment is based on a formula that takes into account how many household units are served. Morenci’s share of the cost would be $8,296. Seneca and Medina township officials already paid their portions.
An alternative would be to increase the annual payment each government unit makes, but for Morenci, that couldn’t be done until next May when there’s an opportunity to alter the assessment. The assessment can be increased up to 10 percent a year without a vote from residents.
Audience member Matt Woznicki asked if the shortfall indicated that too many employees are hired by the EMS service or whether another community is needed to participate.
Mayor Russ Sutherland answered that involvement by another community would be beneficial since the success of the service is based on the number of ambulance runs. No other nearby community is willing to join in.
“The problem isn’t something that came up this year,” Pennington said. “It’s been building.”
“The funding formula and the agreement for subsidies have been in place since the beginning,” Pennington said after the meeting. “We are just fulfilling our obligations that we agreed to from the start.”
If there were an excess of cash in the ambulance fund, the city and townships would also share in a refund.