Kan. county sues over ambulance service structure
According to the lawsuit, “controversy has arisen as to how the ambulance service should be structured and what the relationship between parties should be
Today at 9:09 AM
By Mary Clarkin
The Hutchinson News
HAVEN —The Haven Community Ambulance Service is at the heart of a Reno County District Court lawsuit.
The volunteer-based service has four owners. The city of Haven is suing the other three: Haven, Sumner and Yoder townships.
“I am just extremely disappointed that they resorted to suing,” Yoder Township Trustee Sam Miller said. It’s a sorry deal, because taxpayers will pay the costs of the litigation, he said.
The suit filed in November asserts:
* A “controversy has arisen as to how the ambulance service should be structured and what the relationship between the parties involved should be, including funding.”
* “The arrangement between the parties was loosely organized and is currently not in compliance” with multiple state statute requirements.
The city is asking the court to void the arrangement between the four owners, although it wants the December 2016 contract for the shared payment of the ambulance station in Haven preserved. Under that pact, the city of Haven agreed to pay 50 percent of the ambulance building project, Haven Township 25 percent, and Sumner and Yoder townships 12.5 percent each.
Haven city leaders have voiced interest in installing a full-time director at the station. L.D. Peevyhouse, Yoder Township’s representative on the ambulance board, said the expense of the salary would be easier for Haven to absorb than the townships.
“The townships are on a very tight budget,” he said.
A hybrid system that blends staff making a government salary and volunteers receiving minimal compensation “kind of self-destructs,” said Miller.
“I think they have 10 people on the staff who are volunteers,” Peevyhouse said. “If they get upset and move on, you’re basically going to have to shut your doors,” Peevyhouse said.
There is loyalty among the volunteers to current director Tony Troyer, Miller said. Troyer works for Reno County EMS, the ambulance service headquartered at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center. His role with the Haven ambulance service is the equivalent of a part-time job.
At the Nov. 6 Haven City Council meeting, the council voted unanimously to authorize City Attorney Larry Bolton to petition the court for a declaratory judgment to start over with the ambulance service because it had not been properly formed. Councilmember Shauna Schoepf-Pearce said numerous attempts had been made to bring the townships to the table.
“We’re trying hard not to look at it as a power grab,” Miller said.
Haven City Hall referred The News to Bolton’s statement, which said in part:
“After many efforts to encourage the township boards to cooperate in restructuring this ambulance service, the Council has been frustrated by the lack of progress in this regard.
“The solution considered was to extend the last invitation to meet with the township boards to arrive at a satisfactory agreement. This effort failed, so the Council is pursuing judicial involvement.”
The townships could share an attorney.
As of Wednesday, the townships had not responded to the lawsuit.
Copyright 2017 The Hutchinson News