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City, county talking about ambulance service

 


The city of Havre and Hill County are negotiating an agreement for the Havre Fire Department to continue providing ambulance service outside the city limits.

The Hill County Commission began communicating with the city of Havre Wednesday regarding a city request that the county increase its contribution to the area’s Ambulance Services.

This request was laid out in a letter sent to the commission Feb. 21 by Mayor Tim Solomon. The letter said, under the current model, the city would not be able to financially operate an ambulance service outside the city limits, and “If the County chooses again to ignore our request for assistance we will terminate ambulance service outside city limits on July 1, 2020.”

Tuesday, the Havre Daily News asked the commissioners’ office about the letter, and Hill County Administrative Assistant Brittany Pfiefer said that the letter had been misplaced, though she later said it had been found.

Wednesday, Hill County Commissioner Mike Wendland said the commission had started contacting the city that day regarding the letter.

Solomon said the city has sent numerous similar letters to the commission in previous years asking for more funds for the ambulance services which often takes calls from outside the city limits.

Solomon’s letter said 28 percent of ambulance calls come from outside the city, but the county only contributed 5 percent, $26,768 of the total $523,961 subsidy for the fiscal year, which the letter said, is disproportionately low and represents a funding shortage of $119,941.

The letter argues that this arrangement puts an unfair burden on city taxpayers.

“The city is asking the county to pay an equitable amount for utilizing the ambulance services and personnel in the 20-21 budget year,” Solomon said in the letter.

Wendland said there is some confusion on the county side about the numbers provided in the letter, and the commission has submitted some questions to the city about them.

“I’ve always said statistics and numbers, you can make them say whatever you want them to,” he said.

Wendland said in order to produce the kind of money that would be needed to meet the city’s request would require approval from voters.

“If we were to try and add more revenue to that, we would have to go to the voters on the ballot in November and ask them to increase the revenue for the ambulance,” he said.

Wendland said this issue is in no way connected to the mill levy Hill County Commissioner Mark Peterson proposed putting on the Fall 2020 ballot at a commission business meeting two weeks ago.

Wendland had no comment on why the Hill County Commission is responding to this letter three months after it was received.

The letter said that, in 1977, the commissioners agreed to levy one mill in support of the ambulance service and in 1985, the amount of support arbitrarily was reduced to 2/3 of a mill with the rural ambulance service receiving the other 1/3. 

The ambulance service will be discussed Monday at Havre City Council at 7 p.m.

 

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