Summit County Council not ready to support changes to emergency medical services |

Summit County Council not ready to support changes to emergency medical services

Park City Fire District’s request for independence will not be decided until at least 2023

The Park City Fire District operates ambulance service in both North Summit and South Summit as well as in the Snyderville Basin. Chief Bob Zanetti wants to see changes to operations, but the Summit County Council on Wednesday was not ready to support them.
Park Record file photo

Months of discussions about the future of emergency medical services in Summit County resulted in a stalemate between fire chiefs from the East and West sides and county officials.

The Summit County Council on Wednesday was not ready to support Park City Fire District Chief Bob Zanetti’s request for independence despite confidence from North Summit Fire District Chief Ben Nielson that his department was ready to provide EMS. Instead, Park City Fire will go through the regular budget process until an agreement with the county can be reached.

Zanetti approached the County Council in April proposing amendments to the county’s EMS system. He wants Park City Fire to provide services on the West Side under its own license, gain financial independence and transition away from providing EMS in North Summit and South Summit. 

And because the county contracts Park City Fire to provide all medical services on the East Side in addition to its own jurisdiction, Zanetti argues the district’s taxpayers are subsidizing the cost of services outside of the Snyderville Basin. 

Park City Fire is the only provider of EMS in the county, but jointly holds the license with Summit County. The three interlocal agreements in each region are set to expire at the end of February, prompting the need for a decision as budget season approaches.

Janna Young, the county’s interim manager, said Zanetti’s request came a few years after concerns were raised about whether the county’s rural areas were receiving adequate services. A subcommittee was formed to investigate the issue. The group opted to retain a third-party consultant to conduct a study, which began in August and is expected to be completed in May, of Summit County’s EMS system.

The $136,000 county-funded assessment performed by SafeTech Solutions will include community outreach such as public presentations beginning later this month in each of the fire district’s boundaries. Representatives from SafeTech will also conduct interviews with community stakeholders on the West Side as well as in North Summit and South Summit, according to a staff report.

The fire chiefs recognized the importance of the study and said it should continue. However, Zanetti and Nielson said they didn’t anticipate any surprising results and advocated for the switch to occur concurrently.

Zanetti proposed amending the existing agreement between Park City Fire and the County Council, which included transferring some county-owned ambulances to the Fire District for $1 per vehicle and remitting the proceeds back to the county when they are no longer usable, allowing the Fire District to manage collections and billings in-house, the possibility of extending the agreements to provide EMS on the East Side and more.

While Nielson is similarly interested in the North Summit Fire District acquiring its own licensing and providing medical services, the South Summit Fire Protection District has not been pursuing the changes as aggressively.

Nielson said his Fire District needs to obtain a ground transportation license for ambulance services but is otherwise ready. Nielson anticipates a proposal to increase property taxes will help provide some of the needed funding to the Fire District, but County Councilor Roger Armstrong said the raise hadn’t been approved yet.

Armstrong, who is also the chair of the North Summit Fire District Administrative Control Board, said on Wednesday the Fire District needs stability before it can go independent. There needs to be more discussion and county officials need more assurance, he said, therefore the ACB hasn’t issued a recommendation. Armstrong advocated waiting for the study results and the tax raise before splitting services.

Nielson, however, argued stability isn’t a major problem anymore. He admitted there are other concerns about fire services on the East Side, but said he was willing to take the risk because it doesn’t make sense to not have EMS. Armstrong rebutted that: because the county already has an EMS system in place, fire services need to be the focus.

The County Council must also consider how House Bill 303, which passed during the 2021 General Session and requires the county to provide EMS as an essential service through the municipal services fund, will impact the discussion as the East Side develops a formula to pay for its services.

County Councilor Chris Robinson questioned the “need for such haste” on a decision. Zanetti said Park City Fire cannot continue operating at the current deficit. Park City Fire is willing to provide the service, he said, but it needs to be paid.

The County Council budgets around $2 million for EMS on the West Side, but the actual cost in 2022 will be closer to $4 million, according to Zanetti. Around $1.2 million is also budgeted for Park City Fire to provide EMS on the East Side, but the actual cost this year is estimated to be around $1.7 million. 

County Councilor Malena Stevens suggested extending the interlocal agreement for six to 12 months until the study is completed so the issue can be looked at holistically. Ultimately, the County Council decided not to take action on the issue this year.

Zanetti had not yet submitted a budget proposal as he anticipated the Fire District would be operating its finances in-house. Janna Young, the county’s interim manager, said the Finance Department was working to see how the addition would impact the overall budget.

The County Council is scheduled to start budget meetings in December.

Summit County

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