Last week was tumultuous. On Wednesday, the County Service Area 38 Advisory Committee recommended that Supervisor Jeff Stone support the termination of the county’s ambulance service contract with Idyllwild Fire Protection District.
On Friday, Stone, in Idyllwild for his monthly constituent meetings, said he couldn’t do that. He feels less than 12-minute response time is critical in many emergency cases.
Consequently, he wants the county’s Emergency Services Agency to find $47,000 to augment the contract payments to IFPD.
As an Idyllwild resident, I’m grateful to the county for protecting and ensuring our ambulance support.
Interim Idyllwild Fire Chief Mike Sherman twice said that if there were no contract with the county and no CSA 38 payment, Idyllwild would no longer staff two ambulances.
Only one would be staffed. When it went on an incident, staff for the second would then be called in. Currently, thanks to the contract terms, Idyllwild must have two ambulances fully staffed all the time.
Keep in mind, Idyllwild says it is losing more than $30,800 annually providing service to Pine Cove and $56,000 serving Zone 3 (the area to the north). So without the county ambulance contract, the district saves that money.
When I asked an IFPD commission member why Idyllwild residents would suffer a decrease in service because the district was no longer providing service for which it loses money, I was told that was just a semantic difference.
Service would not change for Idyllwild residents, they said. No, two staffed ambulances are better and greater service than one staffed ambulance. It is not a word game. One does not equal two.
This is the reason IFPD officials say that an AMR ambulance in Pine Cove or elsewhere on the Hill will not be additive. The advisory committee’s recommendation would not bring a third ambulance to serve the Hill’s residents and visitors. Instead, there would be the AMR ambulance and an Idyllwild ambulance staffed and ready “24/7”; but the second IFPD unit would be dependent on staff responding to a call from the station.
Extending the contract benefits Idyllwild residents, so thank you, Supervisor Stone and CSA 38.
But the other and sadder issue related to these negotiations is the assertion that the advisory committee had multiple options to consider.
On June 13, Riverside County EMS Director Bruce Barton attended the regular CSA 38 meeting and outlined three options to the public and advisory committee. These were reported last week.
A week later, the committee recommended the second of the three. But, it appears from conversation with the Supervisor, only extending the contract met his criteria of protecting the response time.
It would have been better to tell the committee the blunt and difficult truth. They would have objected and been angry, but they would have known their limitations.
Last week, the Gallup organization released another survey detailing the declining trust Americans have for our institutions.
Whether it’s elections, sports or romance, Americans learn and understand that “you win some and lose some.” So they will try hard to win, but if their effort cannot affect the result, they learn to invest less in the process.
Less time, less research and less involvement lead to poorer decisions and less faith in decision makers.
I don’t know the best solution for the Hill. I believe all the players were striving to achieve it in their opinion. But I know we’re all interconnected and need each other.