Proposed shift in Ely ambulance funding puts city, Morse at odds

by Tom Coombe -

Officials in the city of Ely and Morse Township remain on opposite sides of a proposal that would change how the area’s ambulance service would receive local funding.
While the city has endorsed a proposed shift that would tax all property owners in Ely and the surrounding townships, the Morse board has gone on record in opposition.
Currently, governments in each entity contribute $5.05 per capita to fund part of the ambulance budget. The change has been discussed by the Ely Area Ambulance Joint Powers Board, and last month the Ely council endorsed the plan - that would reduce the amount collected in Ely by about $7,000.
The issue came up again at Tuesday Ely’s city council study session, when mayor Chuck Novak fired back at Morse officials and responded to an article printed in the Ely Echo.
According to Novak, Morse officials are mistaken when they contend special legislation would be required for the Ely Area Ambulance Joint Powers Board to collect a $5 per parcel assessment on properties in Ely, Winton, Morse and Fall Lake.
“There’s no legislation required,” said Novak, who charged it’s a matter for determination by the joint powers board.
Novak also bristled at suggestions the ambulance service doesn’t have enough workers to meet service demands and that some ambulance EMTs live in Virginia.
“The reality of it is when they are in service, they are staying at the hospital, so there’s no delay of service,” said Novak.
Novak also disputed suggestions the ambulance service is “flush” with cash, pointing out upcoming funding obligations for new stretcher cots.
“We’re looking at around $120,000 for three cots to be outfitted,” said Novak.
At issue is a plan that, in all, would generate about $10,000 in additional revenue for the ambulance service, and one that city leaders say is more fair.
Ely’s obligation would go from $17,190 this year, based on population of 3,404 to $10,945 next year, given 2,189 real estate parcels.
More money would come from the townships, as Morse would go from contributing $6,004 (population 1,189) to $12,865 (2,573 real estate parcels).
An even more dramatic shift would come in Fall Lake, where the township would have paid $2,600 based on a population of 515. Instead, all 2,303 real estate parcels in the township would be assessed for a contribution of $11,515 to the ambulance service.
Novak said that the change will put the burden directly on property owners and adds seasonal property owners into the mix to fund ambulance operations, and free up local government funds now set aside for ambulance service.
The Morse board has cried foul, however, pointing to statistics showing that over 70 percent of ambulance runs are within the city limits. Morse supervisors say it’s not fair that the township pays more than the city.
While Morse and Ely are in a standoff of sorts, the dispute doesn’t figure to have a significant impact on the ambulance budget.
The current per person contribution provides a fraction of the ambulance service revenues, including just four percent of a 2017 budget of $664,834.
The ambulance service had 505 patient contacts last year, up from 421 in 2014 and 480 in 2015.