BOTKINS — A crowd of nearly 50 people responded to an invitation to attend meeting hosted by the Anna Rescue Squad and held Wednesday evening at the Palazzo in Botkins to learn more about the needs and concerns of the department.
Anna Rescue provides services for the villages of Anna, Botkins and Jackson Center along with Dinsmore, Franklin, Jackson and Van Buren Townships in Shelby County.
“Thank you all for coming, we appreciate your support,” said David Klopfenstein, chief of Anna Rescue. “This is an ‘informational meeting’ and tonight we hope to clear up any confusion or misconceptions concerning our request to keep up with the times. Our primary goal is to provide the very best in services while making sure we use our resources wisely. We can’t put a price on our lives or the lives of a husband, a wife, our children, loved ones friends neighbors. We’re all in this together and it’s up to all of us to make sure quality care is there when we need it and that Anna Rescue can provide those services in a safe and timely manner. Hopefully you’ll never need our services but it’s reassuring to know we’re there if or when the need arises.”
Klopfenstein introduced Michelle Davis with the Shelby County Auditor’s Office to explain how the tax levies are designed to work or answer any question about current levy millage and proposed changes that would help meet the growing needs of the squad. Davis compared two contrasting types of millage; “renewal and increase” versus “replacement and renewal.”
“In the renewal and increase, the funding from the renewal is based on property values when the levy was passed so in the case of Dinsmore Township that goes clear back to 1997 and would be somewhat lower than the ‘increase’ portion of the millage rate which would be based on current property values,” said Davis.
“In contrast, a replacement levy millage would be based on current property values and replace the old rates which in turn would increase the tax rate but also increase the financial support for the squad. It would also help bring things up to date concerning the ability to meet increasing costs associated with providing a good level of rescue services,” Davis said.
Davis also discussed the pros and cons of letting Anna Rescue handle its own affairs versus the creation of an “ambulance district” an independent entity that would oversee, and execute all affairs associated with running the rescue service. At least two townships would be required to create the district management service. Townships would then appoint representatives who would replace the authority of township trustees who currently help manage those affairs.
“It’s a larger entity versus the small individuals it terms of who controls the business affairs. Township trustees would no longer be permitted to take part in how things go as individual needs and concerns of a particular township could have the potential to create a conflict of interest thus making an un-level playing field when it comes time to deciding how tax revenues are spent,” Davis said, ‘The ‘district’ would make all decisions and handle all the affairs of providing rescue services, voters would have no voice or make any choices in who would be chosen to provide the ambulance services, that would be up to the district board.”
Klopfenstein said before considering the option of going to an ambulance district all townships would need to be paying the same amount for rescue services. He said it’s getting a lot harder to get new volunteers, many of which now make up a significant portion of the squad.
“The word volunteer is going away from our vocabulary, good volunteers are hard to come by,” said Bob Zorn, Jackson Township trustee.
Klopfenstein and Anna Rescue Squad Administrator Jessica Rickert shared the current needs and concerns of the squad and answered questions from those in attendance. Rickert said the ever-rising cost to get the rescue staff certified can range from $1,500 for an entry level certification to $20,000 to be a certified medic.
Anna rescue currently pays for educational cost and upgrades in certification if the candidate follows through and works for a required, agreed amount of time. If they leave or quit before their term is up, the cost of education then falls back on the individual.
“There is a multitude of things the squad pays for out of the funding we get, it’s really a challenge to keep things going at the present rate of support we have. The cost of new equipment is skyrocketing but the good news is we can now provide a much higher level of quality service with the skills and equipment we use; we’re constantly upgrading to offer the best in service. We all work very hard at being good stewards with the money coming in, we help pay those taxes too, and the lives of our loved ones are on the line like everyone else’s,” Rickert said.
Klopfenstein outlined plans to eventually replace the four aged rescue trucks they now have in service.
“Our oldest truck is a 2004 with 115,244 miles on it and the newest a 2016 with 31,000 miles. If we can get a replacement levy in place our plan is to replace all four of our trucks in the next five years. The equipment we have is nickel and diming us to death. New trucks will also be able to be retrofitted on a new chassis and thus reduce the cost to under half what it is to buy a new truck when the time comes to replace them. Our current vehicles cannot be renovated as such.
“We have a new truck ordered at present and it should be ready by June or early July, the cost is $228,529 and that doesn’t include all the extras needed to ready it for service. There is a reason we are asking for help, we are way behind on updating our equipment and are trying to pay today’s increasing prices with yesterday’s income and it’s just not adding up,” Klopfenstein said.
He shared long-term plans to construct a new centralized squad building but noted it “Is still a long way off and a lot of planning will come before any move is made in that direction.”
Klopfenstein said he felt better after having the opportunity to clarify the confusion noted at the last meeting with village and township officials.
“I hope the residents of our local community step up to the plate and do the right thing when the time comes to vote on providing the funds necessary to insure the safety and well-being of our townships and villages; I cannot believe it will be a hard sell, the amount of support the rescue squad is asking for is minimal for the peace of mind it provides,” said Jackson Center Mayor Scott Klopfenstein said.
Anna Rescue is located at: 203 S. Linden Ave. in Anna. Anyone having questions or comments is encouraged to call Klopfenstein at 937-394-7377 or send an email to: Chief@annarescue.com