County supes talk about EMS and owning a golf course

The future of emergency medical services in the county is getting clearer.
John Muir, chair of the county board of supervisors, reported at the Oct. 22 board meeting a discussion he and supervisor Peter Bardole had with Carl Behne and Katie Heldt, CEO and chief nursing officer at Greene County Medical Center.According to Muir, the medical center is interested in moving forward with the county to improve the financial viability of Greene County EMS. The county will provide funding and will ask each county town to participate financially, perhaps on a per capita basis similar to how the small towns provide law enforcement via the county sheriff’s office. The medical center has offered to provide EMT training.

The county currently has a contract with Dennis Morlan for operating the ambulance service. The county owns the ambulances and the building, and Morlan employs the staff, paying wages, insurance, and other operating expenses. Morlan plans to retire once another EMS operator is in place.

Morlan has had discussions with a potential local operator. However, EMS is not a viable business venture at this time due primarily to challenges in hiring and staff retention. Finances are too tight to offer a competitive wage and benefits package. According to Morlan, Medicaid privatization has made the financial part of the business more difficult.
Muir explained after the meeting that the goal is to increase the contract rate enough to make the business viable for a private operator. Morlan has not asked for or been given an increase in the contract rate for decades.

Muir named Jan. 1 as a soft target date for the transition to a new owner. The supervisors have not discussed where in the county budget additional funds would come from. January 1 is in the middle of the fiscal year for the county, medical center, and all municipalities. Bardole was hesitant to agree with Muir’s target date.

Also during the report portion of the meeting, county conservation director Dan Towers said the Lakeside Golf Course board of directors has offered to give the land, equipment and facilities of the golf course to the county.

The gift would come with a stipulation that it continue to be operated as a public golf course for an agreed upon length of time, perhaps as long as 10 years.

According to Towers, six of Iowa’s 99 counties own golf courses.
Revenue at the golf course in 2017 was $73,000. Expenses were $65,000, with the board volunteering hundreds of hours.

Towers said he isn’t excited about running a golf course, but there would be an advantage in owning the property. Lakeside Golf Course is adjacent to Spring Lake Park. Activity at the park, particularly overnight camping, is increasing.

Towers also reported the board hired Joe Allen as park ranger at Spring Lake. Allen is originally from the Cedar Rapids area. He was park ranger at Brushy Creek state park, and more recently has worked as a firefighter in Wyoming parks. Allen will attend the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy in order to cover law enforcement at Spring Lake.

Sheriff Jack Williams reported that as of the weekend, the sheriff’s office has handled as many calls in 2018 as in all of 2017. He said hiring an additional deputy will be part of budget discussions with the board.

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