On Call: What local officials think about Carlton Ambulance Service funding requests
Many township boards have approved the increased funding requests, but some said the increases were tough for their boards to grapple with. This is part three of a three-part series.
CARLTON — The requested increase in funding to keep the Carlton Ambulance Service going has resulted in a mix of opinions from elected officials in the municipalities the service covers.
In prior years, the ambulance service operated on $87,000 annually, which was divided among the municipalities it covers.
However, after a study conducted by consulting firm Oakpoint, officials decided to add a full-time ambulance manager and a full-time emergency management technician, which would increase the annual cost to $250,000.
Carlton City Clerk Carol Conway said Black Bear Casino Resort receives invoices for every call to the casino that results in a patient not being taken to a local hospital — runs that are referred to as "no loads." The city has not previously requested funding from the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, but Conway said city officials are working to set up a meeting with the Reservation Business Council about a contribution.
Another meeting for stakeholders of the Carlton Ambulance Service will be held at 6:30 p.m. May 25 at the Carlton County Transportation Building, Conway said.
The Cloquet Pine Journal reached out to officials across the area whose governing bodies received requests for contributions.
City of Carlton
Requested contribution for 2024: $54,023
Approved? Will approve.
The Carlton City Council has indicated it would support the city's share of funding for the ambulance service, Conway said. A proposal won't go before the council until the city hears back from the rest of the municipalities in the ambulance service's coverage area, she said.
City of Wrenshall
Requested contribution for 2024: $9,537
Approved? Council is still deliberating.
"The only thing that we’re worried about is that we would like a board formed, and they said 'no' ... That’s all we talked about," said Mayor Gary Butala. "We told them they wanted more time to think about it."
Requested contribution for 2024: $9,216
Approved? The township board approved contributing $5,228, a partial contribution.
"They talked it over at the annual meeting, and basically we can up it some," said Atkinson Township Board Chair Terry Dearborn. "We’re headed down a path that isn’t going to be too pretty. With the new jail and everything, it’s been coming at quite a rate (when) you think about it (as far as taxes) and you ... want to be able to live in your home."
Requested contribution for 2024: $17,096
Approved? The township board approved contributing $4,000, a partial contribution.
"With the ambulance service, it is quite a chunk. With $17,000 to come up with all of the sudden, you know, it’s a lot of money," said Michael Salzer, Blackhoof Township Board chair.
Requested contribution for 2024: $5,001
"Because they’ve done such a good job and because they’re operating under a deficit and they needed to raise their rates that kind of was our logic and our thinking to help support them to provide this service," said Mahtowa Township Chair Emma Higby.
Requested contribution for 2024: $10,909
Approved? The Carlton County Board of Commissioners approved a contribution up to the requested amount, according to minutes of the March 27 meeting.
Sawyer is an unorganized township, which means it doesn't have a township board, said Carlton County Auditor Kevin DeVriendt. The county has a few other unorganized townships, but they fall into other ambulance service districts.
Since Sawyer doesn't have a township board, state law requires the Carlton County Board of Commissioners to act in that capacity, DeVriendt said. District 1 Commissioner Dick Brenner represents that portion of the county, so he attended the January meeting about the Carlton Ambulance Service and recommended the County Board approve the funding request.
The County Board unanimously approved the proposal. A message left for Brenner seeking comment was not returned as of deadline.
Silver Brook Township
Requested contribution for 2024: $30,796
"It’s a lot of money for these townships," said Duane Laveau, Silver Brook Township Board chair. "We’re fortunate that we’ve got the utilities that pay most of ours in Silver Brook Township, so it’s not really a hardship on the residents in our township like other townships."
Silver Brook Township has not previously contributed to the ambulance service.
"We probably would have supported it a long time ago if they would have had a third party present it to us, but you know, we really got a bad taste in our mouth years ago when they first asked for money. They kind of stuffed it down our throats ... so we just kind of brushed them off for years, to be honest with you," Laveau said.
That changed after Laveau and another township board member heard from Mark Jones, CEO of Oakpoint, the consulting firm that conducted the study on the Carlton Ambulance Service.
"Two of us board members went to that meeting (in January) and we came out and we came to the conclusion that if we want that ambulance service there, we’re going to have to support it," he said.
Requested contribution for 2024: $19,782
Messages left for Thomson Township Board Chair Ruth Janke were not returned by deadline.
Twin Lakes Township
Requested contribution for 2024: $76,396
"We don’t want to lose our own ambulance service in this area, and that’s why Twin Lakes feels it’s so important to continue as we have," said Diane Felde-Finke, Twin Lakes Township Board chair.
Requested contribution for 2024: $8,167
The township said "no" to contributing right now, but may revisit the issue over the summer, after officials receive reimbursements from the state for cleanup of downed trees from the December blizzard, said Marvin Durkee, Wrenshall Township Board chair.
"The letter that I did send to them was that if the work is done per our schedule that we have now — which we hope is in the first part of June, and again that’s weather-permitting — if we have that stuff done and we have the reimbursement at our July meeting, we could revisit it. That was our position right now," he said.
The board did not support prior requests for funding because they didn't feel comfortable taking on the added expense, he said.