Public meeting held to raise support in keeping Hamilton County ambulance service

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GILTNER, Neb.-- Dozens of Hamilton County community members are voicing their concerns about a plan to privatize the county's ambulance service.

More than 40 people attended a town meeting Thursday night in Giltner to show their support for the current ambulance service.

The meeting was organized by the Giltner Fire Department, which opposes the county's proposal.

Last week county commissioners proposed a plan to privatize the service and said they believe can save the county money.

"Last year, we spent over a half million dollars subsidizing our ambulance service. We're at a point now where we're charging $80 an acre for property tax. With corn under $3, that's a union that's not going to hold," said Greg Kremer, county commissioner.

However, those that attended Thursday's meeting said they are concerned about how the county's plan will work.

During Thursday's meeting, members of the ambulance service spoke about the concerns they have. One of which is that while the county could save money up front, they believe a private company could take away all of the county's ambulance equipment and leave, if the company doesn't find the area profitable.

"I think it's going to be a good deal for the county for the first year. Then, as was stated here, they can come back and in and renegotiate. Then they'd have the county over the barrel because they don't have an ambulance service, so I think the ball is always in the other guy's court. I don't think the commissioners can do anything," said John Eastman.

Barbara Preissler said she's willing to pay the tax to keep the current ambulance service said she's worried about the quality of care a private service could provide..

"I'm at the age where there's a possibility where I need their services. I just want someone that I know and can trust that'll be there when I need them. Who knows where this private company is going to come from," said Preissler.

Following the meeting, many said they plan on attending the public hearing, or will write a letter to county commissioners to voicing their opposition to the plan.

Monday's public hearing will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the county courthouse.