The Ely Times

A mutual aid agreement between the city and county for fire and EMS services has been a contentious item for several years. Why? Is it political? Is it the volunteers?  Is it the cost? 

Research shows in the mid 70s,  the City of Ely used to provide fire and EMS services to White Pine County, with the exception of McGill, when Kennecott provided services for McGill residents. 

Is it the amount of money the county would have to pay to the city? The City of Ely has paid White Pine County for police protection since 1975.  And the cost has risen over the years, from $380,000 in 2015 to $500,000 during the current fiscal year. 

The city will hire four additional Emergency Medical Technicians staff to fulfill the contract responsibilities.  

The county will lease to the city a 4×4 ambulance for $1 a year for the duration of the agreement. 

The agreement will be five years in length.  

A records request with White Pine County’s Finance Department revealed the following: 

The county pays an average of $23,623.74 a year in utilities to keep the Fire District 1 building going. 

In the last six years, the county has withdrawn from the General Fund $2,473.759  to put into the Fire District’s fund. 

The agreement for the county to combine with the city would be $250,000 for the first year, for start-up costs. And each year after that, it would be a yearly cost of $100,000 that would be paid to the city from the county.

Would the county lose revenue? The city would be entitled to all revenues from all ambulance runs within the county, including life-flight runs, unless White Pine County Fire District volunteer responders are first on scene. It is estimated that this is approximately $400,000 in revenue.  

The city would also receive an additional $50,00 per year of EMS tax revenue from the county. But, has this tax revenue ever been provided to the city? It’s uncertain, depending on who you talk to. Many city staff members say no.  

Would this agreement affect the response time for a fire/ems call that is  outside of city limits and county has been the entity to respond? It could.  

What about the housing subdivisions, and daycare facilities that are located right outside of city limits? Councilman Kurt Carson said, “When you look at valid issues such as response time, it’s simple geographics.”  

Some tracking of mileage revealed some shocking numbers. 

The Magic Carpet Preschool is 5 miles from Fire District 1, and .7 miles from the City of Ely Fire Department. 

How about out to Blue Diamond Estates? It is 9 miles for the county to respond, and 2.9 miles from the City of Ely’s Fire Station. 

The KOA, where several tourists, senior citizens, and spring breakers with children stop in to park their RV for a few days. is 8 miles from Fire District 1 station and 2.7 miles from Ely’s Fire Station. 

So, maybe the most important part of the agreement is the city will be automatically dispatched to all fire/EMS incident anywhere in the County and will provide necessary personnel and equipment in a quick response time.

Carson, who has been working on an agreement for four years now, expressed his excitement this time around. “I am very excited about this agreement, boundaries are key, they have to come down…. lives could be at risk,” he said. Carson also noted he felt it was very important that the city and county both stopped wasting taxpayer dollars on duplicate services.

Richard Howe, chairman of the county commission, noted that he has scheduled a Town Hall meeting for April 18 at the Convention Center. 

More details of this meeting will be provided at a later date.  

Howe also said he felt the the dollar amount of revenues that would be lost were very concerning to him.  

“There’s no hurry on it, this will not take effect until July 1,” Howe said.

Last week, the commission approved the agreement 4-1.  Thursday’s City Council will determine whether the city approves the agreement as well.

Mayor Melody VanCamp said, “It’s been a long time coming, I’m very excited for this to happen. I know we can provide a better service to all residents.”