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St. Croix EMS commission won't fund consultant

The city of Hudson will be on its own in hiring a consultant to study the best delivery structure for St. Croix EMS after a motion for half of the cost to come from the EMS budget failed 2-2 at the EMS commission meeting on Thursday, July 12.

The commission had a lengthy discussion on the idea of a consultant that rehashed past concerns about how the discussion of a possible sale to HealthPartners last year was handled and how payment of the service is split between the city and its partners town of Hudson, village of North Hudson and town of Troy.

City of Hudson council and ad hoc committee members Joyce Hall and Jim Webber presented a review of the ad hoc committee's work over the last eight months to the commission. The review recommended hiring an outside consultant to analyze structural and organizational options for the service, as well as engage the community to hear what it's willing to pay.

EMS Chief Brandon Lyksett asked what the timeline for a consultant would be. Webber said the committee didn't have anything definitive, depending on the time it takes to hire someone. City of Hudson commission member Bill Alms said River Falls' study took about 4 months with a cost of $34,000.

Town of Hudson commission representative Tim Foster said community engagement on what people are willing to pay for doesn't fix the issue of set tax levies, which most of the partners are close to hitting.

"They can tell you that they want to spend the money but you can't unless you take it out of something else or borrow money to pay it," Foster said.

Alms said he would want the partners to work with the city, not just on the financial piece but in the entire process of selecting and working with a consultant.

City of Hudson Finance Director Brenda Malinowski said funding from EMS could come from savings from unused salary and health insurance. The salary costs for the service was $78,000 less than budgeted for the first half of the year due to vacancies and unfilled shifts.

The commission's Hudson Medical Liaison Tom Borowski said he didn't think a consultant would tell the commission anything they didn't already know.

"I think we're just basically putting a lot of money into what we already know," Borowski said.

Borowski said the EMS and its partners should try to fix the reasons why the current staffing model wasn't working, or get a new one.

Village of North Hudson commission representative Stan Wekkin said the current model would work, and a consultant would just tell people what they want to hear. He said the problem EMS is facing is paying for staffing.

"For EMS to be funding this I think is insane and I would never vote for it," Wekkin said.

Town of Troy representative Suzanne Van Mele agreed that the commission shouldn't pay the cost.

"I think this is a Hudson issue," she said. "You need to come up with a model."

Hall said the consultant wouldn't just be looking at Hudson, but all the areas and partners that are serviced by St. Croix EMS.

Both Wekkin and Van Mele said they wouldn't be part of a process to hire a consultant.

Foster agreed that the discussions have been had before, but said he would work with the city in searching for a consultant and would be comfortable with a 50/50 funding from EMS and the city of Hudson.

St. Croix EMS Operations Manager Josh Olson said if the partners are going to do a study, he wanted to make sure something comes out of it. Alms agreed.

"If we're going to spend the money, and we get a recommendation, let's all hold hands and do the recommendation," Alms said.

Webber said it's possible the consultant will tell the service it's on the right track, but then it will come from an outside source with more credibility.

"This became such an emotional issue and still is that we really need to be able to diffuse that," Webber said.

A motion by Alms to fund a study of all structures and models with funding from both EMS and the city of Hudson failed 2-2 with Van Mele and Wekkin voting no.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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