Ambulance talks hit speed bump

Tracy Ambulance Service Director Charlie DeSchepper (left) addresses the Tracy City Council at a special council meeting last Thursday. Seated next to DeSchepper is ambulance board member Jeff Meyer. Photo / Per Peterson

Council wants financial numbers before moving on with contract negotiations; ambulance service says information was already sent

By Per Peterson

On Jan. 1, 1972, Tracy’s new community ambulance hit the snowy streets of town, as the Tracy Ambulance Service began serving city and area residents.

Today, 50 years later, the very same service that has been on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has run into a roadblock.

Ambulance Service members met last Thursday with the Tracy City Council in an attempt to hammer out a new contract for 2022 and beyond. The service is independent from the City of Tracy, and on Nov. 22 it turned down the council’s previous contract offer of $17,500 per year for three years, with a fourth year of financial support worked into the city budget; that was approved by the council on a 5-2 vote on Nov. 8. There is $60,000 remaining in the City’s Hospital Fund, and the $10,000 for the fourth year of the contract would be taken out of the City’s General Fund.

However, that offer fell short of the Tracy Ambulance Service’s needs, Jeff Meyer, who represents Shetek Township on the ambulance board, told the council in November. Citing rising costs of providing service to Tracy and nine area townships, the service said it needs something in the $30,000 per year range.

“Expenses have gone up,” said Charlie DeSchepper, director of the Tracy Ambulance Service. “An ambulance that used to cost $150,000 costs $250,000 now. Our community is 85% Medicare; out of that Medicare, there’s only a certain fee that is set — we only get a certain amount of dollars. None of us sitting here can live on 2017 wages, with inflation the way it is today. If you can, you’re only kidding yourself. The ambulance is no different.”

The Tracy Ambulance Service’s contract with the City expired on Jan. 1, 2022, but it has renewed its license and continues to provide service to 192 sections.

There was no real conclusion to last week’s meeting, as the financial reports desired by the council, which apparently were never received, weren’t available. Schons said the City should contractually receive a financial statement from the service each year, but she said she has never seen those reports. Her question spurred from the $625,000 of operating expenses that was given to the council last week.

“That would answer a lot of questions,” Schons said. “Is there an exact formula that you use? I’m confused at what you are charging for the townships.”

DeSchepper and Meyer contended that financial statements have always been brought to the City.

“It’s provided to the City every year,” said Meyer. “I have (the financials) back for 30 years, every year — that’s what’s provided every year to the City. The City should’ve had the reports on file since 1972. I was not aware that the City did not have those reports.”

“They were all mailed at the same time, to all entities,” DeSchepper said. “So where did they go? I don’t know.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.