Lewis County Fire District 15 has again submitted a letter of intent to withdraw from Lewis County Medic One by this time next year as remaining districts struggle to prevent layoffs scheduled for July 1.
Presented to the Medic One Board of Directors during a special meeting June 4, the letter describes how the commissioners of District 15, based in Winlock, are concerned the financial strain placed on their district amid current efforts to sustain Medic One may negatively affect the fire and EMS services rendered by District 15, should they continue with the agency.
"The undersigned will continue to work with you in a professional manner for the remainder of this calendar year, and up to the aforesaid effective date of withdrawal," stated the letter, which indicated District 15 will be withdrawing one year after the official receipt of the letter. "We have been proud to have worked cooperatively with all of you to provide our communities with such a critical service."
With regard to where District 15 will turn to for paramedic services, Assistant Chief Kevin Anderson stated his commissioners are "actively studying options" and have not settled on a specific provider at this time.
District 15 had submitted a similar letter Dec. 16, 2014, after significant revenue shortages were forecast for 2015, as well as the loss of business from Lewis County Fire District 5, in Napavine.
District 15 later agreed Jan. 8 to instead join the other five districts served by Medic One in pursuing a solution, but recent meetings have seen representatives from District 15 arguing they ought to look out for their constituency rather than accept conditions being placed on them by districts contracting for services from Medic One.
"The more I look at this, it's the tail wagging the dog," said District 15 Commissioner Grant Kistler during the May 19 board meeting when responding to stipulations offered by Lewis County Fire District 8, in Salkum, that District 15 and the other districts who own the agency ought to be held to the same standards as contract districts.
Of the districts contracting for services (District 8 and Lewis County Fire Districts 1, in Onalaska, and 3, in Mossyrock), Board Chair Dale Nielsen said representatives from each were at the June 4 meeting and were not entirely pleased to hear District 15 was leaving, but are committed with the remaining member districts (Lewis County Fire District 2, in Toledo, and Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20, in Vader and Ryderwood) to reaching a solution providing local paramedic services.
"All the other [districts] would still like to see it continue," said Nielsen, stating a workshop to discuss such options is scheduled for June 16, while the next regular meeting of the board, during which time they may act on a solution, is scheduled for June 23.
If they are unable to reach a solution to stabilize the agency's funding by the end of the month, the scheduled layoffs of two paramedics will take effect July 1, reducing the agency's staff to four paramedics.
Nielsen said this task has become more challenging as District 15 has said they no longer intend to honor invoices for services rendered past June 4, despite an agreement by the Medic One Board earlier this year for districts to share agency costs out of their general budgets (and patient revenues, for member districts). Nielsen said discussions on June 16 will center around the ability of the other five districts to absorb the costs previously assigned to District 15, which total an estimated $233,847.
"If we don't receive additional funding, we'll have to do additional cuts," said Nielsen, stating the board agreed during their meeting to start invoicing the contract districts for the amounts they agreed to pay under a cost-sharing proposal put forward in February, with Nielsen stating the agency is otherwise "running low on funds" and in need of greater income to continue operating.
The June 16 workshop for Medic One is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at District 2 headquarters, while the June 23 meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at District 2 headquarters, and the public is invited to attend.