Over the past six months, East Carbon and Sunnyside officials have been working to bring together their fire and ambulance services under one umbrella financially, as they already reside under one roof physically. Where talks with the county concerning a district seem to have fallen through, the cities have now turned to a possible change in their inter-local agreement to make the change happen fast.
"Right now our ambulance is so far financially in the hole we need to come together to insure that this service can be supplied to our community," said Sunnyside Council Member and Emergency Medical Technician Kelly Maynes. "The ambulance service is vital and needs to remain local."
According to Maynes, the Sunnyside service can provide treatment to residence in East Carbon, Sunnyside and the subdivision of Columbia within ten minutes. Based on the distance the Carbon County service would have to travel if they were covering East Carbon, wait times could be as high as 30 minutes.
"Our service is so important because we have well trained qualified individuals with a great deal of experience and fantastic response time," explained Maynes. "A citizen can get help here in 10 minutes or less. The county has a great ambulance service but logistically they are 25-30 miles away. That's 40 minutes away and in some cases that is simply too much time."
After the cities formally decided that coming together was their only option, they asked the county to create a district between the ambulance service and fire departments in both Sunnyside and East Carbon. The county liked the idea and began discussions to expand on the request, moving in the direction of a countywide district.
Officials from both small towns have commented that they don't feel being part of a county district would be in their best interest.
From the viewpoint of Sunnyside City Mayor Doug Parsons, even though equipment would be shared by Sunnyside and East Carbon, salaries would be an issue for the small cities, as would the county having sole control over the resulting tax options.
According to Parsons, the cities still need to find a way to form their own district in order to have taxing rights concerning the needs of the department. However, he is also in favor of using the current Public Safety Inter-local agreement to bring the departments together for right now.
"I would like to see a joint department with its own governing board," he concluded. "They would then have taxing authority over matters which effect this community."
East Carbon City Attorney Jeremy Humes has been charges with amending the city's current agreement which allows the two cities to share one public safety structure. The amendment will bring all three bodies together and outline specifically how the new department will be governed.
Humes will present his recommendation to the East Carbon Council next Tuesday for consideration. If approved, the matter will go forward to Sunnyside for ratification.