Hastings and Adams County reach emergency service agreement

Hastings and Adams County reach emergency service agreement
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 9:25 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The City of Hastings and Adams County have agreed to a one-year extension of their EMS services. It’s a deal that comes after months of negotiation and will be called the “Interlocal Agreement for Ambulance Service.”

Hastings Fire and Rescue Chief Brad Starling said the agreement they were operating on has been expired for a number of years. He said this is one of many extensions the city and county have agreed on until they can find the right solution.

One county official said communication held up agreeing to a permanent deal.

“We just haven’t talked about it,” said Adams County Commissioner Chuck Neumann. “You know it was coming up, I think Chief Starling started the conversation, I would say myself included didn’t follow up properly and so now we need to involve the members of the combined service committee with the city and the county.”

Neumann also said rural fire departments will have a heavy input in negotiating the new deal because if the extension wasn’t in place, they would be forced to go into mutual aid.

Rural areas often have their own form of EMS services but still need Hastings Fire and Rescue in more serious situations. Chief Starling said depending on the location, it can take up to 30 minutes to reach some rural areas.

Those rural EMS teams can get to the scene and provide medical attention until the Hastings crew arrives, which may only be a couple of minutes. One rural official said he just wants to get a deal done.

“The big thing is I want our people that live in our district to know that there’s going to be an ambulance coming when they need it,” said Scott Barwick, Juniata Rural Fire Department. “If you’re traveling through the Juniata district no matter where you’re from you need to be able to know there’s going to be an ambulance service.”

Barwick said it’s important that no matter where you go in the county, ambulance service will be available. If you’re in a rural area and need medical attention, fire officials have tips for survival until help arrives.

“The first thing you can do is call 911 quickly,” said Starling. “If you think there’s a medical emergency going on, we already have an extended response time. All areas of the county are served by local departments that provide first response services and so they will respond and can provide care until the ambulance from Hastings is able to arrive.”

As part of this deal, the county will go from paying Hastings Fire $62,500 to $75,000 because the price of service continues to increase.

“The cost for the city to continue to provide services goes up every year,” said Starling. “We have employee costs that go up, we have the amount of people that we have to staff in order to provide services goes up and of course, we have to keep equipment repaired in good working order and the cost of service has gone up for that as well.”

Starling said the raise offsets the cost citizens are paying for ambulance service.

The agreement will be in effect when it’s officially signed by the City Council Monday, August 14 and will expire on June 30, 2024.