Tama EMS crisis result in library cuts

Funds are reallocated to ambulance services

Books or lives.

That was the decision put before the Tama Council at Monday night’s council meeting.

Budget woes have forced the city into making some rather difficult decisions.

One of those decisions is how to staff the ambulance department. The Tama ambulance department has been struggling for some time now to fill weekend shifts. Don Weitzel is the only full time staff member on the department. He recommended to the council several months ago to hire two part time employees to help cover gaps since they were not getting volunteers. The trouble is, Tama’s annual budget is tight. There just isn’t much money to go around.

Several factors have contributed to budget concerns. Tama had already been operating on a rather thin budget for the past few years. Two years ago the city set a plan into place to use what they refer to as the big money to pay for an additional police officer until taxes start rolling in from Iowa Premium in three years. Iowa Premium is currently receiving a tax abatement. The city was also struggling to cover weekend shifts on the ambulance department. Legal fees have doubled this year for the city as they have taken on several nuisance abatement projects on residential properties. The nuisance abatement projects were projects the city doesn’t budge for.

City Clerk, Alyssa Hoskey said councils intentions are good but the money just isn’t there to do these activities.

Then the derecho hit and made an already tight budget that much worse.

The big money now has to be used to cover paying two companies who assisted with tree removal. Some money will be reimbursed from FEMA but that is six months to a year off at least. City workers put in many overtime hours following the storm which is another additional expense.

“We are in a crisis,” said Aaron Haughey.

After much discussion, the council voted 3-1 to reallocate $50,000 from the Tama library budget to the ambulance services. Anne Michael voted no.

The money will be used to hire two part time employees for the ambulance department.

The need for the part time employees is due to lack of volunteers on the Tama Ambulance Department.

The department currently employs just one full time employee, Don Weitzel as a full time paramedic. Larry Thomas is the director which is a volunteer position. Thomas oversees the crew.

The ambulance serves two very important roles in the city. They provide the obvious need which is emergency medical services but they also make money for the city.

“It’s not just a public health need, it’s the thing that brings our town money,” said Emily Babinat.

Without that money coming in the Tama would not be able to afford to operate.

The ambulance brings in roughly $110,000 for the city yearly. According to Thomas it’s a bit less this year because they have had fewer calls due to Covid-19.

Yearly the ambulance goes on roughly ? Calls. They serve not just the city but also respond to Iowa Premium and the Meskwaki Settlement.

With the decision made, how to cut those funds will fall on the Tama Library Board.

President of the Tama Library Board, John Legg, was caught off guard by the news.

“I wish we would have had a little forewarning and we could have contributed to a reasonable outcome,” Legg said.

According to Legg no one had reached out to the board that this was a possibility.

The total yearly library budget is around $180,000. That covers staff including wages and benefits, copy machine contracts, internet and phone services and purchases.

Until the board’s next meeting Legg said he plans to do some fact finding.

“We don’t have $50,000 without limiting personnel,” said Legg.

City Clerk Alysaa Hoskey maintains there is nowhere else to cut.

What will happen with the library remains to be seen.