Grand EMS will ask voters to help fund staffing, capital needs
Grand County will be asking voters to help finance the growing medical demands of the area as the local Emergency Medical Services navigates strained resources and failing buildings.
Grand EMS currently operates on 2 mills, which the department has had since 2003. The ballot question going to voters this November asks for another 1.75 mills, providing the department about $1.65 million more annually.
If passed, the increase will cost residential property owners $12.51 more a year per $100,000 of property value.
EMS Chief Robert Good explained that the funds are meant to address the needs of a growing Grand County.
“Since 2015, we’re seeing anywhere from a 10-12% call volume increase each year,” Good said. “In 2015, we were roughly around 2,000 calls. By ‘27, it’s projected to double to 4,000 calls.”
Because of the growing number of calls, Good wants to add a staffed ambulance to Grand County’s fleet. Another vehicle requires bringing on six full-time staff members, but the mill levy would also help out existing employee.
In 2019 and 2020, the 41-person department had a 39% turnover rate. Training a new employee costs about $15,000, adding to the financial strain on EMS.
To help reduce turnover, Good also wants to bring wages up to competitive rates.
“Right now, like everybody else in the county and across the nation, we’re dealing with not being competitive with wages,” Good said. “The competitive wages is a big deal. We have to increase and try to hold on to our existing staff.”
If passed, the mill levy would fund a 7.5-10% raise for employees, depending on the cost of the other requests included in the ballot measure.
EMS currently has eight primary ambulances and three in reserve. The mill levy would help finance the replacement of three of the aging ambulances in the next few years.
Capital expenses are another pressing issue for EMS. Station 1 in Granby is at least 60 years old and the heating and plumbing are starting to fail, according to Good.
“We’ve pretty much been told by plumbers and folks that it’s going to fail,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s when.”
Good added that Station 2 in Fraser is even older, having been built in the 1940s, and has reached the end of its life with the living quarters, heaters and roof needing extensive repairs. The mill levy would help EMS to either repair or replace both stations.
Right now, property taxes make up 44% of EMS’s revenue, user fees contribute 55%, and the remaining 1% comes from grants and miscellaneous sources. Grand EMS does not receive any money from the county’s general fund.
Good said that more than half of ambulance users are residents. Additionally, Grand EMS is responsible for patient transfers between local hospitals and ones on the Front Range.
Another resource Grand EMS provides is the Mountain Medical Rescue Team, which offers advanced life support in the backcountry. When someone is injured far from roads, Search and Rescue takes care of extraction but EMS paramedics are also on scene providing care as some operations can take hours or even last overnight.
With the demand for all of these resources projected to continue growing, Good explained that EMS needs to begin preparing for the financial realities of the future.
“With where we’re on track to go and the call volume, it will be extremely tough to keep up with the call volume and the needs of the county (without the 1.75 mill),” Good said. “… What we have been doing since 2003 is shipping things around. When you stay at a certain mill, like we are right now, it’s just stretching it too thin.”
Grand EMS has outlined a seven-year plan for these funds that is available to the public along with a calculator to determine potential tax impacts by property value at http://www.co.grand.co.us/167/Emergency-Medical-Services. Good also encouraged anyone with questions to contact him through the EMS office at 970-887-2732.
“My whole goal as the new chief here is to be transparent with the public,” he said. “We are not asking for a blank check to be written, we have specific items that we need.”
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Deputy Steve Hines of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office has been named as a DUI Enforcement Hero by Mothers Against Drunk Driving Colorado.