Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
Supervisors discuss possible property swap with City of Fairfield
FAIRFIELD — The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors is moving forward with a plan to implement a county-run ambulance service, and is now searching for an ambulance director, and talking about where the ambulances might be housed.
The county’s ambulance service is now provided by a private company, CARE Ambulance of Iowa City, which uses two ambulances that are owned by the Jefferson County Ambulance Service Agency (JCASA). Converting this service from a private company to a public entity will require significant startup costs. Supervisor Lee Dimmitt said that, based on estimates provided by Jefferson County Health Center, it would cost the county about $500,000 to start its own ambulance service, not counting building costs or the prospect of adding a third ambulance, which the county might do later. The county would pay for this with money it received from the federal government through the American Rescue Plan.
During Monday’s supervisor meeting, the members talked about possible locations for an ambulance barn. Fairfield City Administrator Aaron Kooiker spoke about an idea to swap property between the city and county, so that the city would acquire the former First National Bank building on West Burlington, and in return the county would receive the fire station on North Second Street. The city’s fire department will not need that building because the city is constructing a new fire station two blocks west of that, which it will move into in 2024. The supervisors have sent a letter to the Fairfield City Council asking to discuss this trade.
Dimmitt said he liked the idea of the property swap because it would allow the county to use a building that is already made to handle large vehicles like ambulances. One alternative the supervisors are exploring is renovating the former First National Bank building, which the county purchased in 2022. An architect informed the supervisors that it would cost $360,000-$380,000 to renovate the former bank into an ambulance barn, because the drive-thru bays would need to be removed, and multiple rooms would need to be remodeled, too.
“I’m hoping we can make this happen,” Dimmitt said about the property swap with the city. “But it needs to happen by April 1 because we’ve got to make arrangements.”
JCASA signed a three-year contract with CARE to provide ambulance service until Oct. 1 of this year. If the county is to take over the service, it would have to be ready in seven months.
Supervisor Dee Sandquist said that JCASA and an advisory committee on public health have prioritized finding an ambulance director. On Monday, the county posted a job description for the ambulance service director, who would report to the supervisors, and whose salary would be $75,000 or “negotiable.”
Sandquist said that, if the county and city can agree on a property swap, the county would need an interim plan for housing the ambulances until the new fire station is built next year.
“We have some solid ideas on that,” she said.
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