The cost to start and run an ambulance service in Eudora would be more than a $1 million — a number that Douglas County Commissioners will have to weigh against a $2.4 million budget shortfall.
At Wednesday’s County Commission meeting, Douglas County management intern Caitlin Stene laid out the cost of providing ambulance service to the city of about 6,400 people.
After a 2010 management audit of Eudora’s fire department, the city sent a letter to the county asking for collaboration in providing ambulance service.
Currently when there is an ambulance call in Eudora, the Lawrence station at 2128 Harper St. responds. It takes between 11 and 15 minutes for crews to arrive in Eudora.
A crew of first responders, who are trained in first aid but can’t provide life support, often arrive on scene before the EMS crews.
If there was an ambulance in Eudora, response times throughout most of city would be five minutes or less.
At the meeting, commissioner Jim Flory questioned if that 11- to 15-minute response time to Eudora would be that much different than the times for south or southwest of Lawrence.
The startup cost to provide an ambulance and other equipment to a Eudora station would be about $370,000. The annual operating cost to cover EMS personnel, supplies and other expenses would be about $662,000.
“It is not just a one-time (cost). It is a significant ongoing cost. At this particular time, it is deserving of significant discussion,” Flory said.
County commissioners agreed to discuss the issue at a later time and possibly with Eudora officials.
The county already fully funds an EMS station in Baldwin City. But there is good reason for that, Stene told the commissioners. Without it, response times could be 20 minutes or more. And the station serves far more than the residents of Baldwin City.
City administrator Craig Weinaug said there was a lot more work to be done before deciding how the county and Eudora should split the cost.
“At the Eudora station, the need is 80 or 90 percent residents of Eudora. For Baldwin it serves a much larger area,” Weinaug said.
Earlier in the day, commissioners discussed changes that would make it easier to restrict burning in the county on days weather conditions made it unsafe to burn.
The current process to put a ban in place requires contacting all of the county’s nine fire departments and having the county commissioners adopt a resolution. The ban is then in place for seven days.
The proposed changes will have members of the Wakarusa Fire Department evaluate weather conditions and check the Rangeland Fire Index to decide if burning should be allowed that day. The decision will be passed on to emergency dispatchers, who field calls from residents who plan to burn.
When wind speeds are greater than 20 miles per hour or the Rangeland Fire Index is very high or extreme, burning wouldn’t be allowed.