Chesterton Tribune



Burns Harbor facing hefty ambulance service cost hike

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Burns Harbor has had an ambulance service contract with Superior for the past three years. Fire Chief Bill Arney reports, that with the contract expiring on July 1, Superior has asked for a $450,000 change in the contract.

Arney reported at the Town Council meeting Wednesday night that his months of communication with Superior have resulted in their refusal to extend their service contract with the Town while the contract is renegotiated.

In previous emails, a representative from Superior indicated that Burns Harbor could retain service while the details of the contract are hashed out. That was followed by communication last week stating that service will still end on July 1 if a new deal is not reached by then.

For three years, Arney said, Superior provided Burns Harbor with ambulance service at no cash cost to the Town--instead the Town provided the ambulance and fuel and housed the ambulance staff. Council President Ray Poparad also noted that Superior had exclusive rights to all the revenue earned from calls.

Superior has now communicated that they want the Town to pay $25,000 per month and split the revenue with them. Superior would like to capture the first $150,000 in revenue earned from calls and split 50-50 any that remains. Between the share of revenue and $300,000 per year in monthly fees, the proposed contract would amount to $450,000.

According to Arney, Superior reports that they have run 199 calls and garnered $98,000 in revenue in the first six months of 2018. The reason they have proposed changes to the contract is costs associated with staffing the ambulance in an area with low call volume.

Council Vice President Eric Hull noted that even if the Town wanted to entertain such a contract, they do not have the funds, either allocated or readily available. He added, “If they won’t play ball, we could be forced to contract with the County.”

Hull went on to say that in the past, when Porter Regional provided ambulance service to the Town, response times were too high due to Burns Harbor being one of the northernmost destinations in their coverage area. Arney noted, “It’s nothing against Porter Regional, but we’re the farthest north, and they’re already tasked with covering the County.”

Hull said response times used to exceed 20 minutes for calls from Burns Harbor proper, and calls from ArcelorMittal took up to 45 minutes. “And when someone gets hurt at Arcelor, they don’t get band-aid hurt,” he added.

Hull also recalled that Arney used to run ambulance service for the Town, and that went well. However, the Council agreed that getting that system back up and running was not possible on such short notice, and probably not even this year.

Hull said he would be in support of considering it for next year. Arney told the Chesterton Tribune that Burns Harbor can run its own ambulance service for $271,000.56 per year, staffed with 20 to 30 part-time paramedics and EMTs. The cost of having full-time employees would be $478,000 and require fewer than 10 new hires.

Town Attorney Clay Patton said he will draw up a counter offer asking Superior to extend service through the end of 2018 while details are worked out. Arney and Hull will sit down with the Vice-President of Superior to discuss the contract on Wednesday.


Posted 6/7/2018




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