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Floyd County declares emergency medical services “essential,” tax support could go to vote in November

By Bob Steenson,

The county Board of Supervisors took the final step to declare emergency medical services an essential service in Floyd County at the board’s meeting Monday morning.

What happens next will be up to an advisory council that was also set up Monday morning and that will hold its first meeting tonight (Tuesday), then up to the Board of Supervisors again, and ultimately up to the voters if the measure gets that far.

The supervisors passed the third and final reading of a resolution declaring EMS as an essential service, similar to what law enforcement protection and fire protection are, and similarly eligible to be supported by a tax levy.

The resolution declaring EMS essential was passed under section 422D of the Iowa Code, which was revised last year by the Legislature to make it easier for counties to take part in the process.

With the final passage of the resolution, the next step was setting up a county emergency medical services system advisory council.

Supervisor Roy Schwickerath, who has taken the lead on the EMS issue for the county, has been asking for a couple of weeks for anyone interested in serving on the advisory council to submit an application so the board could be established Monday.

The board received applications from:

• Jeff Stirling, crew chief for the Greene Ambulance.

• Patrick Lumley, Charles City Council member.

• Dawn Staudt, the station manager and supervisor of AMR ambulance service in Charles City.

• Dawnette Willis, CEO of the Floyd County Medical Center.

• Brandy Molitor, advanced EMT and founder of the Floyd County EMS Association.

• Brian Chambers, Marble Rock Fire Chief and Marble Rock First Responders.

The supervisors voted to appoint five of the applicants – all but Staudt – to the advisory council, and Schwickerath said later Monday that was mostly because they wanted an odd number.

He said they had received another application since the morning meeting, from Dave Luett, the service director of the Nora Springs Volunteer Ambulance Service, and it was possible the board could decide to add both Staudt and Luett.

“That way we would have all the county EMS services represented,” Schwickerath said.

The job of the advisory council is to “assist in researching and assessing the service needs of the county and guiding implementation of services in the county within a council structure,” according to Iowa Code 422D. “The county emergency medical services system advisory council … shall recommend to the board of supervisors an amount of funding to be specified on the ballot.”

The Iowa Code allows EMS to be funded with a property tax on all taxable property in the county, or an income tax surcharge on all income earned by county residents, or a combination of both.

It will be up to the supervisors to decide whether to take the issue to a vote, how much tax asking to list on the ballot and the type of tax. A ballot issue on this question would need to pass by at least a 60% majority to take effect. If a ballot measure fails, the essential services designation would be “deemed void,” the Iowa Code says.

County Auditor Gloria Carr said at the meeting Monday that a decision will need to be made by the end of August in order for a question to be included on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election.

The first meeting of the advisory council will be at 7:30 p.m. today at the EOC room in the Law Enforcement Center attached to the courthouse. The meeting is open to the public.

Also at the supervisors meeting Monday, the board:

• Passed a motion that interest that is earned on a new county account set up last week to receive donations to a Sheriff’s Office K9 account will remain in that account. Typically, interest earned on funds in county accounts goes into the general fund.

Persons who wish to make donations to the fund to purchase, train and maintain a county K9 should send them to the Sheriff’s Office, said Deputy Luke Chatfield, who will be the new dog’s handler. He also said someone would be happy to go collect a donation if the donor calls the Sheriff’s Office.

• Approved an agreement with the Cerro Gordo County Attorney’s Office for that office to try to collect delinquent court debts owed to Floyd County. Assistant Floyd County Attorney Randy Tilton said currently debts are mostly collected by the Iowa Department of Revenue through income tax refund withholdings, and occasionally by the Floyd County Attorney’s Office through contempt of court filings.

Even though 90% of the Floyd County debt collected will remain with Cerro Gordo County and 10% with Floyd County, Tilton said he thinks Floyd County will receive more money overall than it has been.

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