County Treasurer concerned over privatization of ambulance service

Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger has called a press conference for this afternoon at the Courthouse in Lander to express his concerns over Fremont County giving up its ambulance service to a private provider. The treasurer prepared a bullet point list of his concerns that he will discuss at the press conference (see below). Harnsberger said the transaction would increase fees to those using the service, including fees to county and other government agencies, and he claims the revenue received by the county under a draft agreement has been understated and that a county subsidy would still be required to keep the service going. Here are Harnsberger's concerns: *Increased fees to citizens* o Stand by contract rates will increase from $95 to $125 (32% Increase) o Affect: Fair, school and rodeo event costs will increase. o Treat at scene rates will increase from $100-$200 to $500 (500%-250% increase) o Affect: This will impact Senior Citizens who suffer from symptoms of diabetes and other conditions that can be treated on site. o ALS and BLS rates for varying levels of services will increase, some as high as 33% (Advanced Life Support and Basic Life Support) *Revenues $125,000* o $125,000 net annual lease payment. The contract calls for $250,000 per year, however 50% is unearned revenue (a liability) until the sale of capital assets takes place at the end of the lease term in February 2021. *Expenses $426,000* o Dispatch Subsidy $45,000. The contract provides for a $45,000 discount for dispatch services. All governmental agencies receiving dispatch from the County currently pay the costs of dispatch less the E911 surtax. In order for the Dispatch Fund to break even the County will pay the cost not covered in the contract. o Sheriff Hornecker is very concerned that users of dispatch will see this as “unequal” and wreak havoc on the willingness of other agencies to pay their share of dispatching costs. o Guardian Plus Membership $122,000. The County will pay $122,109 to Air Medical Resource Group (AMRG). Membership benefits are not described in the contract. This subsidy almost entirely negates the $125,000 net lease payment. o Property tax $26,000. Since the County is leasing assets to a for-profit entity the Capital Assets of the County’ Ambulance Fund will be subject to property tax. The added expense will approximate $26,000. Vehicle licensing fees and sales tax will be paid by AMRG. o Depreciation $235,000. Average for five years o Insurance $21,000. The County will continue to insure the vehicles, equipment and buildings. o Repairs and maintenance on Ambulances ($23,000). This expense will likely go away. Currently the Ambulance Fund does not pay for these costs. *The bottom line* o On average the annual subsidy to AMRG will approximate $301,000 per year. o AMRG will have $625,000 credit to apply to the purchase of the remaining assets comprised primarily of two buildings and the land. AMRG will have positioned itself well to be the only bidder on County-owned assets. o Fees to the citizens of Fremont County will substantially increase at the beginning of the lease and may increase as much as 5% per year without the approval of the Fremont County Commission. o The Ambulance Fund capital assets book value will be $1,100,000 less than what was on the books at the beginning of the lease agreement, with no plans for replacement along the way. o The contract calls for the County to provide dispatch service only to AMRG, thus creating a monopoly for Ambulance Service. o Local government subsidies to the for-profit will continue to be necessary even if the assets are sold to the AMRG at the end of the 5-year lease. Based upon the experience of other rural counties, subsidies ranging from $200,000 to $400,000 will continue to be necessary to support an ambulance service in Fremont County. #county10 #news