EMS support urged at supervisors’ meeting

Benton County Courthouse

VINTON – Housing and ambulances were the main topics for the Benton County Board of Supervisors, Tuesday, Dec. 10, at their meeting at the courthouse in Vinton.


Ben Kurka gave an update on the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program in Benton County. There are three transport ambulance services in Benton County, with Vinton, Belle Plaine and Blairstown. There are also numerous first responder groups. They also work to provide services who live outside of Benton County. Iowa County helps with southern Benton County He said it is a big, collaborative effort. There are 130 EMS providers and 42 drivers. There are 1,800 to 2,000 responses each year. He said there are lot of lives they are impacting.

Kurka told of concerns in rural areas, due to the distance to hospitals. Rural providers provide stabilization in the field.

EMS is at a tipping point, Kurka said. One of the big things is the increase in costs. In the last year or two, the three transport services have billed for $1.2 million in services. They get about 50 percent return on this. This creates a shortfall that impacts the bottom line.

They are also working on recruitment and retention. They work to find people to volunteer their time, and also pay $1,000 to $2,000 in training. There is a good core group of people who serve, but there is a lot of cycling of people at the entry level.

Kurka added calls are increasing. Patient expectations in the rural areas are the same as in urban areas.

They are working to set up an advisory council on what can be done locally to keep up with the needs of patients and services. He added that a lot of people don’t know what goes into providing EMS.

Looking forward, they are looking at increased support and sustainability, making sure friends and families have what they need when they call 911.

While people expect the ambulance to show up when called, it is not considered an essential service, like the fire departments and police or sheriff departments. They are working on consistent funding streams similar to what fire departments use, and hope to have people see EMS as an essential service.

Kurka said they wanted to be sure this was on the radar for the supervisors so they can be proactive.

Supervisor chairman Richard Primmer said it will take a joint effort and the public needs to be made aware of this.

Kurka added there a many dedicated people serving in the county.

Housing program request

Tracey Achenbach of the East Central Iowa Housing Trust Fund discussed their 2021 budget. They started in 2011. She asked for a little more this year because she expects having to make more of a local match. Last year she requested $2,464, which the trust fund received. They assisted four households in Benton County, with $39,307 in assistance. They are also helping with downpayment assistance for a development in Vinton, aimed at those with low to moderate incomes. The trust fund put $105,000 to this. They also have a rehab program for housing. The request for 2022 is $3,388.

“I think that’s a really good bargain on behalf of Benton County,” observed Primmer, pointing to a request increase of $1,000 that can help bring in over $100,000 to Benton County. Achenbach pointed out the program does assist a lot of people in Benton County.

Other business

  • Matthew Anderson was appointed as medical examiner investigator.
  • A farm exemption was approved for Stephen and Jodie Ries for land in Section 16, Benton Township.
  • Greg Walston gave an update on the ISU/Old School produce program. They will be a 501c3 group in 2020. They served nine food pantries in the area and hope to expand their volume.
  • Bids were accepted on new tandem Freightliner trucks from Truck Country of Cedar Rapids.
  • Karen Phelps, Benton County Conservation, told the board that Ben Bonar was approved as the river parks ranger. He is currently working with roadside management in the engineer’s office.
  • The meeting closed with the board discussing the process of getting a replacement for county treasurer. That meeting was set for Thursday, Dec. 12.

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