Rural health board to draft contract for services

Bulletin photo by Floyd Whiting

The Johnson County Rural Health Care District board owns four ambulances that serve northern Johnson County. The board is discussing whether to build an “ambulance barn” to house the vehicles and an EMT training area.

In a unanimous decision, the Johnson County Rural Health Care District board voted to draft a contract to present to Buffalo EMS as SafeTech Solutions is scheduled to begin a service wide assessment in October.

During the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 10, RHCD board members went into executive session to discuss the first stages of drafting the contract and real estate options in the event the board wants to build a facility to house the ambulances serving northern Johnson County.  

Once the board returned to its regular meeting, board member Mark Haines made a motion to request that Barry Crago from the Johnson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office draft a contract that the board will present to Buffalo EMS Director Dave Harness, according to board Chairman Marilyn Connolly.

Scott McBride seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

Connolly and RHCD Treasurer Jim Hicks have said that they would like the contract to include a yearly review before renewal. The current contract is for five years and includes an automatic five-year renewal. That contract expires in September 2020.

Contract discussions between the board and Buffalo EMS have been an ongoing conversation. During the meetings, Hicks and Haines have requested more transparency in payroll and health insurance expenditures from Buffalo EMS.

Buffalo EMS payroll and benefits made up approximately 75% of the RHCD’s budget last year. Harness has been reluctant to release the information, citing employee confidentiality. But Harness released payroll information to the board in March and asked the board to limit discussions related to the payroll document to executive sessions.

During an Aug. 13 meeting in Kaycee, Harness informed the board that he paid lawyers “quite a bit of money” several months ago to draft a contract, which he intended to present to the board.

The drafting could take several weeks, allowing plenty of time for the assessment to be completed and any possible recommendations the board feels appropriate will be included, Connolly said.

Board members continued a discussion about a possible land purchase and construction of an “ambulance barn” to house the ambulances for northern Johnson County.

Buffalo’s ambulances are now stationed in a garage centralized in Buffalo on Holland Street, owned by Harness, according to Connolly.

The district owns four ambulances to service northern Johnson County and two in Kaycee to cover the southern part of the county.

Board members Hicks and Haines, as well as Connolly, have expressed their desire to construct a facility to house the ambulances and give the EMTs a large staging and training area.

After the executive session, Hicks moved to continue researching possible locations for the facility. The motion passed on a 3-2 vote, with Connolly voting to break the tie.  

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