The Pettis County Ambulance District Board of Directors voted to keep a unit as a reserve instead of trading it in after experiencing some issues with current units. 

Assistant EMS Chief Roy Pennington reported during Tuesday night’s meeting that Unit 6, one of the district’s older units, had a critical failure when the motor stopped working. The patient in the unit was transported to another unit and then to the hospital without incident. 

Board secretary Mike Brown asked how an incident like that could happen, with other units experiencing issues as well. Pennington said they perform routine maintenance on all vehicles but the issues were because of the age and the miles on the vehicles they have. 

“The thing about it is that this ambulance in particular...they’re up around 200,000, 230,000 miles,” Pennington said. “Honestly in all of my years of doing this when you have an emergency vehicle, we’re lucky that this truck actually hasn’t ever had a critical failure or cost us a whole lot of money in maintenance at all in the 230,000-mile life it’s had. This is the first critical issue we’ve had. It’s just mileage, a lot of it. We didn’t have any problems at all until we started hitting the 180,000, 200,000-mile marker.”

Board members discussed starting to order replacement vehicles sooner and not allowing the mileage to get as high on the vehicles. Later Pennington recommended PCAD adopt the practice of ordering new units when the unit’s mileage passed 165,000 miles. He explained the average mileage for units per month was 5,000 to 6,000. Since it takes roughly four to six months for PCAD to receive new units after ordering them this would allow for an additional 20,000 to 30,000 miles to accumulate on the unit while waiting for the new one. 

Pennington, EMS Chief Eric Dirck, and the fleet maintenance officer also proposed fixing Unit 6 and keeping it as a reserve. It would not be in regular rotation and equipment could be moved into from another unit if it was needed to be used. Unit 6 was set to be traded in for a new unit in 2020 with that unit to be received by PCAD in two to three weeks. 

Pennington explained the estimated engine replacement cost was $9,300 while the trade in value for Unit 6 was estimated at around $10,000 at best. If the drivetrain needed to be replaced all components would be approximately $22,000. Also for a unit to be considered for trade in it has to be driveable, which Unit 6 is not without the repaired engine. Scrapping the unit if it’s not driveable would bring in roughly $1,000. 

Pennington further explained PCAD would like to keep it since they are at a point right now where they have zero backups due to insurance delays, animal strikes, and other mechanical issues. Once the new unit arrives and all units are available, PCAD will have 11 total units and needs eight for use. However, at the time of the meeting, only eight were in usable condition. Rental ambulances cost roughly $3,000 a month and are rarely available. Rentals also do not have PCAD’s radio equipment in it or stock on it. Fixing Unit 6 would also mean it could potentially be traded in at a later date when appropriate. 

Board treasurer John Fritz pointed out the district would have nowhere to store the vehicle if they decided to keep it but other board members thought they could work something out. Board member John Meehan suggested going ahead and putting Unit 6 up for trade in just to see how much they could get for it before deciding to keep it. He pointed out once PCAD received the new unit and had all units repaired they would have 11 units leaving PCAD with three backups. Fritz spoke in favor of it, bringing forward the motion. 

“As a representative of the people, I do not want to receive a call that says they called 911 and the ambulance didn’t show up for 30 minutes,” Fritz said. “I don’t want to be the one receiving that call. So if this ambulance is the best interest, by the recommendation of our chief, assistant chief, to remain in our possession as a value is best for the district and the taxpayer then I again want to act on the motion.”

The board ultimately approved getting the new motor for Unit 6 to not exceed $9,300 and keeping it as a reserve with Meehan voting no. 

The board also: 

• Approved the payment of outstanding bills. 

• Set the reserve amount for the sale of a decommissioned command vehicle at $16,000 net. 

• Approved to start a medical services bid process at the next board meeting. 

• Heard during the EMS Chief’s report the district received 699 calls for Pettis County in the month of January which is a record for the most amount of calls in a month. 

• Put the medical billing collections services out for a bid. The district has a request for a proposal from a collector the board is looking into. 

Board member Greg Nehring was absent.

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