Burns Harbor’s new ALS ambulance service got a needed dose of CPR Tuesday.
During a three-hour budget workshop the Town Council agreed to keep the Fire
Department’s ALS service operating through this year and into early 2014 if
carryover funds are available.
Council members indicated that as much as they support the seven-month-old
service, the town can’t pledge to cover all cash shortfalls for the more
than $250,000 annual operating cost.
Commented councilman Jeff Freeze, “I don’t think anybody at this table would
question the value of lives; unfortunately, the five of us have to put a
dollar figure on that.”
Also agreed was to amend the town ordinance authorizing ALS service to allow
unpaid ambulance fees to be recovered by a collection agency. Fire chief
Bill Arney said anticipated annual ALS revenue is $80,000 and right now
$57,000 is waiting for collection. “The only hope we have to survive is to
go after our money.”
The base ALS-1 transport charge is $725 but $825 if more drugs/intervention
is needed. Some insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid only pay a portion
of the cost, while other accounts are self-pay.
Councilman Mike Perrine said a reliable, permanent funding source has to be
found beyond billable charges, which lag behind service; last year the town
enacted a water-hydrant maintenance fee with the understanding the
approximately $73,000 it generates annually would go to help support ALS
service, but that fee alone won’t be enough.
July 29 the council expressed serious reservations about future funding for
the ALS service; since then Arney said he’s fended off rumors and
speculation on its fate. “Obviously it will be a sad day for Burns Harbor if
we discontinue the service, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Other ambulance providers are asking Burns Harbor’s ALS for back-up,
stand-by and assistance, driving up call volume as word spreads about the
quality service it provides with dedicated personnel, said Arney.
He added he’s heard many favorable comments from town residents about the
service, especially from three people whose local ALS care made a tremendous
difference in their medical emergency’s outcome. His goal in offering
expanded care was to shorten the response time to receive advanced treatment
for the town’s 1,300 residents, he said.
The fire chief asked that if the council does decide in 2014 it can’t
continue to pay part-time paramedics to staff the one ALS rig 24-hours a
day, it give him adequate notice to obtain coverage from another provider
for the town. Porter County’s contracted ambulance service through Porter
Regional Hospital previously filled that role.
If the Burns Harbor ALS service does fold, its ambulance and equipment would
be sold but the Fire Department will continue to operate its
basic-life-support ambulance for less-serious medical situations like it
In other action Tuesday, the council agreed to give full-time town employees
and elected clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan a 2.6 percent across-the-board pay
raise. Except for Jordan, this year full-timers got $1,000 each and police
The Park Department had requested a $14,366 increase next year to $99,806
for operating expenses; that was trimmed to $95,000 with the direction to
use some of its accumulated $11,000 in non-reverting funds for major
maintenance and repair projects Park Board president Marcus Rogala said are
Rogala also said attendance at the popular children’s day camps is growing
steadily, and the board wants to expand additional program offerings as
It was announced the Park Department’s annual children’s back-to-school
party is Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at Lakeland Park with a DJ, pizza and
Town marshal Mike Heckman said his department needs to add another patrol
officer and a new squad car, and Street superintendent Randy Skalku said he
needs to replace the 1997 dump truck.
Heckman also said it’s critical that police upgrade their computer system,
some of those changes mandated to coordinate with other departments. He
estimated the cost could be about $87,000 to replace equipment and convert
data from the current outdated operating system that companies don’t write
Jordan said IT projects can be funded with cumulative capital funds.
Skalku said the balance of Old Porter Road that wasn’t previously rebuilt
needs to be rebuilt and widened now, but the pricetag will be high. Doing
about 75 percent of Old Porter west of Indiana 149 several years ago cost
The council agreed it’s time for the town Redevelopment Commission to meet.
It hasn’t met all year because its entire TIF income was pledged to repaying
sewer bonds, but the council plans to pay them off soon to save interest and
free up the annual $600,000 the RDC generates to do other capital projects.
During budget workshops the council didn’t address whether it would commit
money to help renovate the town’s newly acquired Westport Community Club,
formerly a private community center.