Cautious about short-term cash flow, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District Finance Committee still felt comfortable at last week’s meeting to recommend that the commission authorize Fire Chief Patrick Reitz to investigate and evaluate financing to purchase one or two new ambulances.

Fire Chief Patrick Reitz told the committee he has had early discussions with several vendors. He has focused on the availability of units that have already been built but are still new. Patient comfort is an important criterion for IFPD ambulances, Reitz stressed, since the rides to hospitals are long and the roads are serpentine.

“I’m not looking for brand new or ordering that they build to our specifications,” he said. “We can buy something on the floor. It will meet 90 percent or more of what we expect.” Reitz added that the preliminary estimates of cost for the demonstration units are less than $120,000 per ambulance compared to the range of $125,000 to $135,000 for off-the-assembly-line vehicles.

It will take some time to make a decision and secure financing, thus Reitz did not expect any costs to be incurred during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The committee’s recommendation was unanimous with the exception of Calvin Gogerty, who was absent.

No financial statements were available from the district’s consultant, Rob Dennis, and the first property tax payment from the county had not been received. Consequently, a recommendation to estabish a reserve account or accounts from the proceeds of the 2013 sale of the cell tower lease was deferred.

However, during the discussion, the committee indicated it was considering three separate reserve accounts. One would be for unfunded liabilities. The district is currently awaiting completion of an actuarial report on these amounts. It is being done for the audit for fiscal year 2013-14, which ended June 30, 2014.

The estimated amount could be between $45,000 and $70,000, according to Reitz.

The other two reserve accounts would be for equipment repair, maintenance and replacement for vehicles and for district facilities.

After some discussion of the amounts for each reserve — for example, a minimum of $25,000 to start — the committee decided to only recommend establishing the reserve accounts but without recommending an amount until after a review of the budget status in January.

Reitz also added that IFPD’s legal expenses will be significant this year and he advised the committee to defer specifying any amount for the possible reserve accounts.

On a positive note, Reitz said he was expecting a check soon from the federal government for past emergency medical transports. The state has a program, Ground Emergency Medical Transportation, that provides additional funding to eligible governmental entities that provide emergency transport services to Medi-Cal beneficiaries. IFPD will receive supplemental reimbursements based on uncompensated costs for Medi-Cal fee-for-service transports.

The first check would be for about $38,000 and the total recovery would be in the range of $90,000 to $100,000 from as far back as 2009, he said. Once received, these funds might also be dedicated to the future reserve accounts.