GREENWOOD TWP- A committee formed by the Greenwood Town Board had little good to say about the McGrath Consulting Group study done for the township that came with a price tag of almost $55,000.The …
GREENWOOD TWP- A committee formed by the Greenwood Town Board had little good to say about the McGrath Consulting Group study done for the township that came with a price tag of almost $55,000.
The group held its second meeting to review the study and finished with more questions than they had started with. The draft of the study, which is labeled confidential, had numerous typos, misspellings of names such as Breitung and Vermilion, as well as mis-naming the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa as the Bois Forte Indian Nation.
Bois Forte Tribal Council member Robert Moyer Jr. attended the meeting and said that either he, or other tribal employees, would try to attend upcoming committee meetings to keep informed on the topic.
The committee is tasked with reviewing the draft report and submitting changes to McGrath. But the committee spent most of the meeting reviewing items that McGrath had promised in their proposal that were omitted from the draft report.
“We asked for a recommendation on consolidation of existing services or the creation of a new service,” said committee member Lee Peterson. “We wanted estimated costs and timelines.”
Peterson noted the proposal McGrath gave to the township included these topics.
The committee discussed numerous other items that they felt were going to be addressed but were not part of the draft report.
“That is why we bought into this,” he said. “It read just what we wanted.”
The committee also bristled at the inclusion of topics in the report they felt were irrelevant to the question of improving ambulance service, specifically the controversies encompassing the town board the past few years.
The committee unanimously passed a motion stating the study had failed to fulfill its stated commitments as to the scope of the study and objectives, outcomes, and options.
The group will have Hibbing Fire Chief Erik Jankila attend a special town board meeting set for Monday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. at the town hall. Jankila will speak on the topic of emergency medical services and give his input on the draft plan. A question-and-answer session will follow.
Ambulance service issues like funding and staffing are an issue throughout the state, the committee noted.
“St. Louis County needs to be involved with this,” said Rick Stoehr, who is also a town board member. “Everything is so backwards. We had 131 medical calls last year and 50 fire-related calls. But the focus isn’t on EMS people, it’s on the fire department.”
The committee brought up the idea of dissolving the Cook and Tower ambulance services and bringing in a private ambulance service to serve the area, or creating a regional ambulance service to oversee a much larger area than the current ambulance districts.
“You can’t have an ambulance service every 25 miles,” said Stoehr. A regional service, they said, would still require ambulances stationed in the area communities, but would share administration, training, and staffing.
While the committee has discussed the city of Buhl and their hiring Essentia to run their ambulance service, there has been no data provided that shows that the private ambulance model could work in the much larger and more rural area that encompasses Greenwood, especially with the drive times to area hospitals and the need for frequent transfers to Duluth.
“We are beyond patching up the status quo here in Greenwood,” said Peterson. “It’s too late for that.”
“Greenwood has to get used to the idea we are doing this ourselves,” said Peterson. “We have the leverage and the means to do it.”
The group noted that McGrath consultants met with the directors of the ambulance services in Tower and Cook, but neither expressed interest in adding ALS-level service. But the township, as part of the study, never consulted with the Tower or Cook city councils, which oversee their respective ambulance services.
The costs of upgrading to an ALS service are very high and depend on finding trained paramedics to staff the service 24/7.
Greenwood Township is mostly located in the Tower Ambulance service area, with some of the western portions of the township covered by Cook. Ambulance service areas are set by the state’s Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board (EMSRB), and while that board has come under scrutiny in the past few years over its management and oversight practices, any changes would need to come through more comprehensive legislation. While the Office of the Legislative Auditor compiled a report on the EMSRB and made numerous recommendations, it is not clear that any of these changes are in the process of moving through the legislature.