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North Hudson to sever ties with St. Croix EMS

The North Hudson Village Board voted Tuesday to part ways with St. Croix EMS — though the action will take years to go into effect.

The village signed a five-year contract renewal with the Hudson-based EMS system in 2017, which will remain in force until 2022. Village board members, on a 5-2 vote, voiced concerns with the funding structure and future of St. Croix EMS; the program's leader recently resigned and his interim replacement was subsequently placed on leave after Hudson Common Council members learned of controversial tweets sent from an account connected to him.

Board Trustee Bryan Pike said the move gives the city of Hudson — the EMS service's main funding provider — time to sort through the matter.

"We want out in case they can't resolve what they've got going on," Board President Stan Wekkin said.

Three North Hudson residents spoke out against non-renewal at the meeting. All three endorsed the idea of the issue going to voters in a referendum instead of the board making the call.

Resident James Pruden, whose public comment-period remarks led to ongoing talks with board members as they discussed the action item, said he wasn't comfortable leaving an ambulance service in the hands of an entity outside the Hudson area.

"It's not minutes that come into this, it's seconds," he said. "It's a life or death difference."

Pruden later said that learning about the remaining four years on the contract eased his concerns.

Board Trustee Kirk Nelson, along with Cathy Leaf, voted against the measure. Nelson said after the meeting that while he supports the decision not to renew, his no-vote signaled his support for St. Croix EMS Interim Chief Joe Elkin to unite the service and the communities it serves.

Leaf said residents' remarks at the meeting validated her concern that the community wasn't adequately informed of the situation with the ambulance service.

"This is a terrible situation that we are in and EMS is in," she said.

The Hudson township board voted at its August meeting to send a letter of withdrawal from St. Croix EMS on the condition that it had approved a new contract with an EMS provider by the Sept. 28 deadline to withdraw.

The township is talking with Lakeview EMS about possible service, and chairman Jeff Johnson said it had planned to hear a presentation on a potential contract at the board meeting Tuesday.

That presentation was not yet available, and Johnson said the township will give Lakeview until the Sept. 28 deadline to bring one forward.

St. Croix EMS Operations Supervisor Josh Olson told the board the service is working to be more sustainable. Olson said next year's per capita cost will not increase in 2019, as was originally expected.

At Olson's questioning, the board members said they would be willing to hear a new proposal from St. Croix EMS.

The board will call another meeting in September if any presentations are made for EMS services.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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