As a member of the public approached the Idyllwild Fire commission dais, the commissioners reacted, Larry Donahoo (standing), Pete Capparelli (center) and President Jeannine Charles-Stigall (right) Photos by J.P. Crumrine

The Idyllwild Fire Protection District commissioners unexpectedly amended their recently enacted ambulance fees to lower the cost for Pine Cove residents. If transported, Pine Cove residents will be charged the same amount as Idyllwild residents.

The effect will lower the cost of an advanced life support incident by about $300, from $1,438.14 to $1,134.92.

Commissioner Pete Capparelli led the effort. At the June 11 meeting, he requested that the new rates be reconsidered at the June 25 meeting. But the decision was not unanimous. Commissioner Jerry Buchanan opposed the change.

He argued that the County Service Area 38 payments to IFPD (negotiated between the county’s Emergency Medical Services Agency and IFPD) are needed to ensure two fully staffed ambulances at all times. Therefore, these payments are not related to the actual cost of transport or any medical service. Also, individuals, regardless of residence, on Medicare or MediCal do not pay the full transport cost, Buchanan argued.

Norm Cassen, with his wife Sharon, spoke vociferously at the Idyllwild Fire Protection District Commission meeting Tuesday, June 25.

Nevertheless, President Jeannine Charles-Stigall and Capparelli said they had spoken to many local residents who supported reversing the decision.

“I look around and see friends and neighbors who need to work together,” Capparelli said. “You can’t tell me you’re not happy with the ambulance.

“After hearing the concerns and soul searching, you should be charged the same as Idyllwild,” Capparelli concluded and made the motion to modify the Zone 2 (Pine Cove area) fee.

When asked how much the change might cost IFPD, Fire Chief Patrick Reitz said medical transports numbered 36 from Pine Cove since August 2012. Only six of those patients actually paid the $300 difference.

“It shows the program grosses $2,000, which is a small price to pay for the good will with somebody whom we do business with,” argued Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly.

While the commission voted 4-1 to adopt the change, it had to re-convene Thursday, June 27, to approve the official resolution with the change. This was passed 3-0, with commissioners Buchanan and Schelly absent.

The meeting began with the ambulance fee discussion and several Pine Cove residents spoke passionately about their desire to see the fee modified.

“[Pine Cove] residents pay more than people who pass through [Idyllwild] but don’t contribute anything to you,” said Marge Muir, Pine Cove resident and CSA 38 Committee member. “The Supervisor [Jeff Stone 3rd District] has the county pay for Zone 3 [an area north of Pine Cove]. Those residents don’t.

“Don’t treat us as non-residents. We’re part of the mountain,” she implored the commission. The comments got a little too passionate for the commission during a statement from Norm and Sharon Cassen; consequently, the meeting was recessed for several minutes and the Cassens left.