Mineral Wells Area News

ESD#1 Sends Termination Letter to City Regarding Extended EMS Service Area; Plans to Contract 4th Ambulance for County Instead

ESD#1 Sends Termination Letter to City Regarding Extended EMS Service Area; Plans to Contract 4th Ambulance for County Instead
October 02
19:32 2023

By Amy Bearden

Back in June Mineral Wells Fire Chief Ryan Dunn told the City Council that his department was struggling. The problem, in a nutshell, was because calls were up and staffing was down because pay was low.

The news was not Earth shattering as the fire department had announced back in April on social media that it would close one of its stations temporarily, during the day due to personnel staffing issues. The problem was not just the increased volume in calls they were servicing, but also the demand in the rising cost of hiring and retaining paramedics.

MWFD Chief Ryan Dunn gives City Council an update on his department at a June 20, 2023 meeting.

The situation has been so dire, Chief Dunn and his Deputy Chief, both are forced to run calls themselves instead of hanging back at the station to manage the administrative side of the department.

Emergency Service District No. 1’s Commissioner Carolyn Land said closing the doors at a local fire station got her attention because, after all, providing medical emergency services to the County residents is the reason ESD1 exists.

For many years MWFD has had an Inter Local Agreement with ESD1 to provide EMS response for about 120 square miles in the county for about 3000 residents who live just outside the Mineral Wells City limits. (The area is often referred to as the ESJ.)

The City began serving the ESJ when the local volunteer ambulances around the County started to dwindle over ten years ago. Land says that’s when the City stepped up and became heroes for ESD1 as they began to service areas no longer covered by volunteers.

ESD No. 1 will hire a 4th Ambulance to station near Mineral Wells to provide EMS Response for County residents living on the outskirts of Mineral Wells

The annual agreement has been repeatedly put in place for years to serve the ESJ, but Dunn’s report in June to the Council indicated that it had become fiscally and physically difficult to maintain that agreement.

At the June 20th meeting, he told Council as he began to look at the department’s financials, he noticed they weren’t covering the cost for the calls ESD1 was contracting them to provide in the ESJ.

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In 2022-23, MWFD received just over $50k from ESD1 to provide emergency medical services in those extended areas.

Crunching the numbers told Chief Dunn something had to give. He said the City, the ESD, the County and even the Hospital needed to get together and try to solve the dilemma because the cost to cover the ESJ was $170k more than what the ESD1 was paying them.

Dunn offered solutions to the Council which included ending their coverage of the ESJ and narrowing their call area to just the City, as well as suggesting more competitive pay to keep his existing staff plus hiring more. His final suggestion was to hire a third party contractor to take over ambulance services all together for the ESJ, just as the County had with Sacred Cross years ago.

Dunn told the Council he couldn’t compete with the salaries being commanded across the state for paramedics with his current budget. He was facing under staffed crews and forced to close a fire station a couple days as his crew were taking certification courses. The bottom line for Dunn was to keep his staff and the public safe, so he limited the hours one of the two stations was open during the daytime.

ESD1 Commissioner Carolyn Land says the charge of the organization is to provide emergency services for the County and said she and her fellow commissioners don’t take that job lightly. Learning the firehouse doors had to be shut down, even temporarily, was concerning.

“When you dial 911, don’t you want an ambulance available to take the call if needed,” asked Land. “That can be really scary for the people managing the Emergency Services District.”

Once ESD1 became aware of the situation Dunn spoke of, they knew they needed to be a part of the solution. After all, it was MWFD who stepped up all those years ago to help ESD1 when the volunteers dissipated.

Hearing the concerns and learning the situation MWFD was facing, at the last Board Meeting of ESD1 on September 20th, the Board finalized a solution that would alleviate the City’s issue.

Their answer was to take back the ESJ and hire another ambulance. They drafted a termination letter and delivered it to Chief Dunn.

The Letter

Re:Notice of Termination of Interlocal Agreement between Palo Pinto County Emergency Services District No. 1 and the City of Mineral Wells for Emergency Medical Services

Dear Fire Chief Dunn:

As you are aware, Palo Pinto County Emergency Services District No. 1 and the City of Mineral Wells entered an Interlocal Agreement between Palo Pinto County Emergency Services District No. 1 and the City of Mineral Wells for Emergency Medical Services on August 1, 2022 (“Agreement”),under which the City was to provide EMS response to a certain defined area of the District. Under Section IV of the Agreement, either party may terminate the Agreement with at least 90 days’written notice.

Further, during the August 28, 2023, meeting between the City, the District, and Judge Long, the District indicated its intention to relieve the City of its obligation to serve the defined area of the District covered by the Agreement. This letter is notice that Palo Pinto County Emergency Services District No. 1 is terminating the Agreement, effective at 11:59:59 p.m. on December 31, 2023.

Should you have any questions regarding this termination notice, please contact me.


Mike Henderson
Palo Pinto County Emergency Services District No. 1

Upon speaking with Land, Mineral Wells Area News learned ESD1 will be bringing on a fourth Sacred Cross ambulance in the County to cover the area MWFD had been servicing. She said it will be stationed somewhere near the Mineral Wells vicinity so it can service the community.

Sacred Cross currently is stationed across the County in Graford, PK Lake and Gordon. The new ambulance, according to Land, will cost $275k to contract for the area and will be paid for by the sales tax paid into the ESD1.

“We’ve been looking for places around here to station the ambulance,” Land said, indicating they had been looking all over Mineral Wells, even getting input from downtown developer Randy Nix.

The Inter Local Agreement requires a 90 day notice to the other party, which means that in January 2024, ESD1 will begin using Sacred Cross to run 911 medical calls instead of MWFD in the extended areas known as the ESJ.

When asked about the termination letter from ESD1, Dunn indicated he could not to make any comments until the upcoming Council meeting. Of course that sent MWAN next door to ask City Manager Dean Sullivan about the situation.

“Not much to say really, we will put it on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting,” Sullivan said.

The meeting is set for 6pm on October 3rd and does have an executive session planned to discuss the termination letter the City received.

MWAN has also inquired about the $144k the County budgeted and committed to MWFD for Fiscal Year 2023-24 to help alleviate the staffing/budgetary problems. At this time, an agreement has still not been signed between the City and the County concerning those promised funds. The agreement is still in County Attorney Maegan Kostiha’s office being finalized.

MWAN will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.

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