There seems to be quite the debate lately regarding our local ambulance service. I was very disappointed when our community failed to vote in favor of a mill levy for the ambulance personnel. The ambulance has been functioning at the same mill levy for many years. Unfortunately, recent changes in the health insurance industry have drastically reduced the payment received by the Delta County Ambulance for transports. I wonder if people really understand what an exceptional level of service they have here in western Delta County.
For instance, of the eight full-time paramedics on the Delta County Ambulance crew, do people realize that two of them hold the critical care endorsement? This is the highest level of certification possible in the State of Colorado and is not very common. The majority of the full-time staff on our local ambulance service has at least 10 years of service and experience. Try to find that type of expertise elsewhere. While we all dread any increase in taxes, it seems to me that we need to vote for this one.
I understand that the ambulance district will put this measure on the ballot again in November, and I feel like we must as a community stand behind our first responders. On the current budget the ambulance operates on, they will not be able to replace equipment. Several of their ambulances are running very high on mileage; one ambulance has over 300,000 miles. There are currently no funds to send employees out for additional training and no money to assist in funding employees who wish to achieve a higher level of certification. I am told that if the ambulance does not receive an emergency grant from the state in June, administration will be forced to cut pay and increase hours for the crews. Our EMTs and paramedics already took a pay cut last year. Do we really want to send the message to them that their families and well-being don't matter by forcing them to take another pay cut? I am the first one to oppose additional taxes, but I feel that a well-funded and well-trained ambulance service is vital to our community.
Talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, but most of all vote for a mill levy increase for our local heroes and help them to keep doing the important work they do. When the worst day of your life comes, you will want them there, and you will want them skilled.
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.