Mono County’s Board of Supervisors began their mid-year budget review on Tuesday deliberating serious spending choices ahead. One of them could mean the difference between stabilizing precarious EMT/Paramedic service in the Tri-Valley area of the south county.
Service in that part of Tri-Valley area previously came out of Bishop, and historically response times, especially in Benton, have been very slow.
Garrett Higerd from Mono County Public Works reported that architect and survey engineers, along with area stakeholders, have begun work on a budgetary package concept to examine where to put a proposed Hammil Valley Emergency Services Facility and what it would include.
Board Chair Hap Hazard was adamant that, given the choice between an “amenity” such as air service subsidies or “flower pots on Main Street” and a safety net such as emergency medical services, he’d have a hard time justifying spending $200,000 and more on airplanes opposed to ambulances.
Higerd said the White Mountain Fire Department and other area stakeholders might be outlets to additional sources of funding. Other outlets yet to be explored are Sheriff’s Department funding from money pulled in via its drug eradication program, and potential backing from the U.S. Forest Service.
Hazard opined that the south county population may be reaching a point where call volume would be enough to warrant more services.
Hazard pointed out there has only been a single EMT in the White Mountain area for the past couple of years. A recent reported scaling back of services by Symons Ambulance means the unit that would come into Tri-Valley has been cut, and no longer available, which may lead to a “crisis point” in the near future.
Given current climate, Supervisor Larry Johnston said he’s not sure that a Honda plan, much less a Cadillac plan, can be achieved, adding that the timing isn’t good right now for considering a long-term funding of a yearly plan, even with grants for upfront construction and startup expenses. He also reminded the Board that paramedic and EMT services are not required by the state.
Bauer added she wants to find the “threshold moment,” the criteria for warranting the expense, call loads, revenue generation, income levels, geography or amount of sicknesses.
“There’s nothing written that says, ‘When you get to 10,000 population, you get paramedic services,’” Hazard agreed. There probably won’t be a single piece of criteria that drives the decision, he added, but more a combination of factors.
“There may be different criteria for different areas, but what is it?” Bauer asked rhetorically. “What is the thing that will be that ‘threshold moment’?”
Mark Mikulicich, County Paramedic Rescue Chief, suggested that moment could well be the one when the phone rings with a call for [a paramedic or EMT services] and there’s no one to answer the phone.