Helper approaches commission for assistance with Rescue 3
|Helper Rescue 3 volunteers assist the victim in a car accident that occurred two years ago. The Helper mayor and fire chief told county commissioners last Wednesday that finances for the rescue service is getting tight and Rescue 3 may not be able to respond to emergencies in the future unless the problem is resolved.|
The mayor and fire chief of Helper approached Carbon commissioners during a meeting on July 21 for financial assistance for the rescue service the city provides within the county and Price Canyon.
"This is not about our fire contract with the county," explained Mayor Joe Bonacci, referring to the agreement Helper has to provide protection north of Blue Cut. "We have a funding problem in serving in the area of emergency services. Actually, we have no funding to do it. In the past, the Helper Firemen's Ball has raised the money to buy new and replacement equipment. But that dance is getting less and less support each year. Right now, we are only paying the volunteers who work in the department $100 a month to serve and, with the time they spend in training and preparation along with calls, that amounts to very little."
"I worry that the day may come that our department may not be able to go out to incidents on a first-call basis," continued Bonacci. "I just worry there could be an accident in the canyon and we may not be able to respond the way we would like to."
Commissioners voiced concern about what could happen in such a situation. They wanted to know about the cost of providing the emergency services and what it would take to resolve the financial crisis.
"I would say the cost is at least $7,000 to $8,000 per year," said Helper Fire Chief Mike Zamantakis. "There are just a lot of things we need that we can't afford."
"For instance, we broke our jaws of life unit and it will cost $650 to fix. We used to pay for that with the money from the ball. But that just isn't there anymore and the city can't afford to pay for it, either," added the fire chief.
Zamantakis pointed out that Helper Rescue 3 service generates 200 to 300 calls per year. While the other emergency units responding to accident and incident scenes get paid, Helper Rescue 3 does not.
"All the fire departments help each other out and back each other up on fires. But when it comes to rescues, we have divided the area up," stated Zamantakis. "Right now, we have 16 fire fighters in Helper and all of them are also EMTs. That's a requirement."
The mayor and fire chief indicated morale among the volunteers is low because of the financial problems. It is also becoming more difficult to attract new people as the older volunteers leave.
"It used to be we'd run an ad in the paper and there would be applications from everywhere," explained Zamantakis. "Now I have to go around and talk people into being part of the unit."
Since the 9-11 attack on the United States, the fire chief said emergency crews are operating in a different world because the requirements have changed and become more expensive to meet.
Responding to questions from the commissioners, Zamantakis indicated 30 percent of the fires the department responds to happen within Helper while rescue calls in the town comprise around 60 percent of the total responses.
As the commission looked for answers to the problem, several scenarios surfaced. One possibility raised by Commissioner Bill Krompel involved the county forgiving Helper's debt on a fire truck purchased a few years ago. The option could save the city $5,000 per year in payments.
"That would be a great deal for us," said Zamantakis.
Commissioner Steve Burge wondered why the county does not have a contract with Helper on rescue services.
The county used to assume that the provision of emergency services was part of the fire contract, responded Commissioner Mike Milovich.
Commissioners agreed the situation was serious and the county should explore ways to help the town keep its service going.
The county commission also opened bids for a mini-excavator. Altogether they received nine bids. Those bids included estimates from H and E Equipment of Salt Lake for $81,715; Scott Machinery of Salt Lake for $90,900; Wheeler Machinery of Salt Lake for $88,895; Rasmussen Equipment of Salt Lake for $83,2777; and Terrex Equipment of Seattle, Wash. for $81,354.
They also received double bids from two companies out of Salt Lake. Two of those came from Century Equipment Company for two different models for $80,016 and $81,715. Komatsu Equipment also submitted two bids on two different machines for $73,875 and $73,100. The commission decided to have road department personnel review the bids and award the one that fits their needs the best.
Two projects concerning the softball fields by the fairgrounds also had bids reviewed as well.
The first was for doing the electrical work on the new lights that will be installed around the park. There were two bids; one from Electrical Contractors of Price for $31,543.23 to install the lights and $7, 854.45 to remove the old ones. The other bid came from Skyline Electric of Salt Lake for $32,700 for installation, but it wasn't clear if the removal of the old lights was within that price or not.
The other project, putting in new fencing around the field, received no bids at all.
The commissioner also approved the tax rates for the county for this year. The general tax rate for this year will be 0.002326 and the revenue produced from that should be $3,776,500. For the special service district the rate will be 0.00017 and it will generate $205, 777.
Finally the commission reviewed the contract from the architects, Edwards and Daniels, for the new ambulance garage.
"We have to be careful on how often they come to town on this project," said Milovich. "We have had experience where architects come down when they want to and charge us for their time and travel expenses at high rates. I think they should only be paid when they come here at our request."
The other commissioners agreed with that and also thought that some of the provisions of the contract for travel and reimbursement ought to be changed to lower rates than what was quoted.
Burge also pointed out that he felt a clause should be added to the contract concerning attorneys' fees should there be some type of legal action between the county and the architectural firm. The clause he wanted to add would keep the winning party in a lawsuit from assuming all the costs of lawyers' fees.
The other commissioners agreed.