Dec. 11, 2020
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
BRILLION – Brillion city council approved the city's agreement for the Gold Cross Ambulance Service for 2021 but did so with the ability to review the contract during a 90-day window.
The 90-day window will give the city a chance to research and review the agreement with Gold Cross to better the service for the community, after recent concerns most specifically about response time for calls.
The 90-day window would allow city council time to opt out of the contract for 2021 without penalty, though no member of council overtly expressed desire to do so. Alderperson Sarah Pielhop had made a motion to make the window 60 days, but that motion failed.
Gold Gross Ambulance Executive Director Mark Fredrickson was not at the most recent city council meeting when the matter was discussed but Nick Romenesko, Gold Cross' Systems Director, spoke on the group's behalf.
“It's your service in the city and if you guys are wanting to make improvements or do whatever you want to do, the service of Gold Cross is certainly open to that, and those are conversations I think we need to have throughout the year, and not when we get to budget time,” Romenesko said.
Romenesko said that Gold Cross would benefit from months of discussion prior to budget time, to offer the best solutions possible.
Some members of council, most notably Pielhop, expressed that there has been a lack of communication with Fredrickson and Gold Cross.
In Brillion, the service model is one ambulance staffed 24-hours per day, seven days a week, with one advanced Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and one additional EMT.
“They're here to service the community and when they get called out and transport someone out of area, you guys know the closest hospitals aren't close … They're either Chilton or Green Bay or Manitowoc or Sheboygan or the Fox Valley, so when they get called out of service, they're out of service. They're no longer available to the community until they return,” Romenesko said.
Romenesko said the city's call volume has been flat for multiple years with just over 400 calls each year.
“That's an appropriate number of calls for one ambulance to manage. That's just over one a day,” Romenesko said. “When you factor in the low call volume and the small amount of community (population), that's where we get our number from.”
The city pays Gold Cross more than $102,000 each year for service.
“There's a certain amount of money that it takes to run this ambulance 24 hours per day, seven days a week. There's only a certain amount of calls that this ambulance has going on that we can bill out and we have to make up the difference somehow, and that's based off of the subsidy, and that's what keeps the ambulance afloat and running,” Romenesko said.
Any money that turns to a profit for the Gold Cross service goes back to the City of Brillion at the end of the year.
“We set up a break-even budget essentially for you guys,” Romenesko said.
Last year, Gold Cross presented a check back to the city for more than $8,000.
“As a taxpayer, I'd rather hold onto all of my money and then pay just a little bit at the end, rather than get the reimbursement,” Pielhop said.
Romenesko said that Gold Cross could not budget effectively in that scenario because during years when the city has less calls, the city uses Gold Cross as a bank to keep the ambulance
service afloat until the end of the year.
“We're not expecting to make any money. We're already setting the budget to say our goal isn't to make money. If we do make money, it goes back to the community,” Romenesko said.
The crux of concern for some in Brillion is response time inside of the city.
Gold Cross has its own dispatch center that deals with seven different counties. If someone inside the City of Brillion, for example, calls 911, they would get the Calumet County Sheriff's Office.
The full version of this story appears in the Dec. 10, 2020 print edition of The Brillion News.