Ambulance Board Concerned About Upgrade Costs
By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
How much they will have to contribute to the needed $3.1 million upgrade in 911 equipment and software will affect future plans for the Ste. Genevieve County Ambulance District.
During their meeting last Thursday, the ambulance board decided it might be best to proceed “on a more cautious pace” on building a new House 3 near Weingarten, in Executive Director Kendall Shrum’s words.
“We may have to slow our pace down on that,”he said. “We’ve got more time than we do money, on that,”
Ste. Genevieve and St. Francois County combined their 911 operations n 2011, with what was a state of the art setup in Desloge. The old 911 center on Brooks Drive in Ste. Genevieve has been maintained as a backup center. Equipment and software are becoming outdated again though, as both the St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve sites need millions of dollars worth of upgrades. Ste. Genevieve County’s has about a $3.1 million price tag.
Meanwhile, the primary funding mechanism for 911 services, land line user fees, have continued to fall. Well over $300,000 a year a decade ago, they are down to just over $100,000 a year now.
The county commission and others are looking into possible means of new revenue. These include a possible tax on each household device capable of calling 911 (such as smart phones and tablets), a fee or tax on cell phones when purchased, or possibly just an additional county sales tax to be dedicated to 911. Any of those would have to go on the April or August ballot for a vote of the people.
Discussion was held during the meeting as to what the ambulance district’s share would be. It was estimated that it might be in the $400,000 to $500,000 range.
“We’ve got some serious expenses to look at,” Shrum said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to spread those out over several years.”
“We might just put the House 3 on hold,” board member Dennis Jokerst said.
“We can slow that project down just a little bit,” Shrum agreed, “and move at a more cautious pace. We’re operating within what we’ve got. We can get the logging, do some ground work and just kind of work at a slower pace. I don’t really like that, but we have to have radio communications and we can’t afford not to be part of the group with them.”
Shrum had said earlier in the meeting that he was reaching out to a couple of individuals to see about getting some logging done on the land where the new house will go.
“I am reaching out to some of the local loggers to see if anyone is interested,” he said.
The small size of the tract may make it difficult to find interested parties, although the level ground would be an advantage.