Supervisors weigh ambulance options

By Heather Michon, correspondent

After a nearly month-long break, the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors returned Wednesday (Aug. 7) to a conundrum.

The fiscal year 2020 (FY20) budget allocates up to $190,000 to have Fluvanna Rescue Squad’s Ambulance 49 remounted.

Removing the box from an ambulance, refurbishing it, and attaching it to a new vehicle chassis is a common solution to upgrading an aging rescue truck. It’s generally far less costly than buying an entirely new ambulance.

But Purchasing Officer Cyndi Toler told supervisors that since the approval of the budget in April, Fluvanna Rescue has requested that the county instead purchase a new vehicle.

In conversations with Toler, Chief Crystal Mayo proposed an ambulance with a smaller box, which would better fit some of the county’s narrow driveways, and a switch from a diesel to a gas engine. This model would come within the $190,000 budget.

Toler presented a set of options, ranging from remounting the current box on a 2019 or 2020 Ford F450 or F550 diesel engine for between $144,500 to $153,500, to purchasing a smaller F450 gas engine for between $170,000 to $180,000.

The rescue service has also requested an automated stretcher loading device, which could prevent back injuries for first responders who currently have to manually lift patients in and out of the ambulance. That could add another $45,000 to 50,000 to the final bill.

As Toler and County Administrator Eric Dahl went through each option, it became clear the devil was in the details.

A diesel engine is slightly more expensive to maintain, but often retains a higher trade-in value and lasts longer than a gas engine. Remounting Ambulance 49 would take two to three months and would leave the rescue service with just two ambulances for that period. Purchasing a new ambulance would take six to nine months for delivery, but would allow Ambulance 49 to remain in service.

Then there was in the issue of financing. The county had hoped to defray some of the cost of a remount by applying for a grant that could net up to $40,000 of the cost of a vehicle, but if the county opted to buy a new vehicle, they would have to have to finance it with debt, making it ineligible for that grant.

After the presentation, a number of opinions emerged, but no clear consensus. In the end, they voted 4-0 to defer a decision until a future meeting, with Supervisor Mozell Booker abstaining.

Other matters

During the 90-minute meeting, supervisors:

  • Approved the FY21 budget calendar and FY20 pay rates and classification schedule;
  • Transferred $120,000 from the FY19 medical insurance contingency budget to cover various over-expenditures in facilities, general services, and the convenience department. All three departments ended the fiscal year slightly over budget due to unexpected maintenance costs and increased electrical costs and other fees, while insurance expenses came in lower than anticipated; and
  • Approved an $8,675 change order with AG Dillard for drilling services associated with the Zion Crossroads water and sewer project, after VDOT determined that part of the original drilling plan required modification. The work was completed in late July.

Updating the supervisors on the progress at Zion Crossroads, Toler noted that “we spent a little more than we anticipated” on land acquisition and had not originally factored in the cost of a SCADA computer control system in the budget.

At a previous meeting, supervisors approved $271,000 for the design of a SCADA system, and Toler said she expected that the proposal for building and implementing the hardware would be coming within the next couple of months.

Dahl and Toler said that the project was still on track to come in within the original budget and was, at least at the moment, slightly ahead of schedule.

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