Dear members of the Rural Healthcare District board,
There has been a significant amount of community concern surrounding your recent decisions regarding ambulatory services in Johnson County. As I am a member of the Solid Waste District board, I understand that there are a number of business decisions that are made that the general public is unaware of. However, in the case of ambulance services in the county, the public is well informed.
First, all financial concerns aside – those I will get to momentarily – in my opinion, our ambulance services run very smoothly. I have never heard a complaint as to the quality of care or the promptness of service. In full disclosure, our ambulance services saved my life. The ambulance barn that we use right now is, for the most part, centrally located. The argument of moving the ambulance barn closer to the hospital is specious at best. Your selected location is less than five blocks from where it is right now. This would provide no added benefit to the community or the county at large. Second, unless I am missing something, ambulances are generally not used AT the hospital; so, at the very least, an argument about proximity to the hospital is a red herring. In other words, its only use is to mislead the public into believing something that is simply untrue.
While I might agree that adding to community assets is generally a good idea, your timing is the worst I have ever heard of. No one knows what is going to happen in the near-term or long-term. Two of your board members are in the banking community; more than anyone, you two should understand this. At our most recent board meeting, an adviser from the bank you work at told us in no uncertain terms that no one knows what is going to happen with everything. In fact, we were advised not to do anything with public funds.
Because no one (including bankers) knows what is going to happen with the economy, needlessly spending taxpayer funds is flatly irresponsible. As members of the Rural Health District Board you legally have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer. Spending one-half million dollars on something you don’t need is clearly not in line with your public charge. Second, those public funds ought to be saved for a time when you actually need them. Now is definitely not that time.
Next, I will agree that a contract dispute with Dave Harness is a matter that needs to be resolved. In every single article I have read and every meeting I have listened to, Mr. Harness has said he is willing to negotiate the terms of his contract with the county. Negotiate. This is not difficult. Does he want an increase in pay? Yes. Is it warranted? Who knows. But at the very least it is your responsibility to act in the best interest of the taxpayer. It is the opinion of many in our community that this is a personal dispute between board members and Mr. Harness. If there is even the slightest hint of truth in this, those board members are required to recuse themselves. Required.
Last, your search for another provider of ambulance services will not serve to benefit the community. It is highly unlikely that a private company will be able to provide commensurate services to Mr. Harness and do so at a reasonable rate. We are a small rural community; the profit margin is not high enough for a private company. Startup costs alone will increase the price of services. And the fact that Mr. Harness’ company knows our community does, in and of itself, have value. Is it always wise to get bids from other providers? Sure it is. But remember, you always get what you pay for. And, as people involved in government you should understand that the lowest bidder often creates more problems than they solve.
In closing, I urge you to put personal matters aside and think of the taxpayers. They are your charge. Do not waste our money.
David D. Iverson