Akron officials consider merging EMS, fire departments

Posted February 23, 2018 at 6:01 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

With the loss of the fifth Akron EMS director since it became a municipal service three-and-one-half years ago, Akron officials are taking steps to merge its emergency medical services with their fire department.

At their Feb. 13 meeting, Akron councilors unanimously accepted the resignation of Akron EMS Interim Director Lynette Kiger and announced plans to bring an ordinance regarding merging the two departments to their next meeting, which is Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Since July 1, 2014, when city officials took over the ambulance service from Siouxland Paramedics Inc., “all we do is burn out director after director after director,” Akron City Administrator Dan Rolfes told the council. “I think it’s time we have to try something different to see if we can keep this thing going for everybody in the community.”

“Everybody who has been doing (the director’s job) has been doing a great job keeping it going but at the same time we can’t afford to keep burning people out,” said Rolfes. “The volunteer pool keeps getting smaller and smaller.”

The merger possibly would help keep a sustainable ambulance service without the burnout, he said.

“We’re still in the beginning stages,” said Rolfes, explaining he’d been talking with both Kiger and Akron Fire Chief Shane Coyle since he received Kiger’s resignation letter Jan. 24. “There are a lot of details to work out.”

City Attorney David Stuart explained he had drafted an ordinance, which is a starting point for the two organizations to use in the formation of one department. Both departments will have input in drafting the final ordinance. He hoped to present an ordinance for a First Reading and possible enactment by the council at the Feb. 27 meeting.

“If we merge the two, it needs to be one unit — not have our ambulance here and fire over here so there is no line in the sand per se (between the units),” said Rolfes, who is also an Akron firefighter. “I feel that’s the only way it’s going to work is that we are one unit.”

“If we (merge), there are a few points that will have to stay separate,” he said. “That stuff needs to be worked out, too.”

The two departments’ budgets have some items that need to stay separated, said Rolfes. One example is that the fire department doesn’t use medical supplies so that would be one line item to remain separated.

Rolfes also recommended the two departments’ vehicle set-aside funds stay in separate accounts so that there is money continually set-aside for both ambulance and fire vehicles.

One question discussed was whether the firefighters would have to become EMT-certified.

The answer was only those who want to.

“There were a lot who volunteered to become EMTs,” said Councilor Joseph Small, who is the council’s liaison to the two departments. “That’s quite a lengthy process and if we have enough volunteers, (instructors will teach the class in Akron).”

“The fire department is very impressive,” said Small, who is a retired firefighter. “They are a really good group and to see those guys volunteer (was great).”

There will be a funding request for that training, said Coyle, noting it’s about $26,000 for 12 volunteers to take the EMT training.

It was noted there are county funds available for such training but it’s on a first-come basis.

Mayor Sharon Frerichs felt two weeks was plenty of time for the two groups to meet.

Therefore, a proposed ordinance regarding the merger will be presented at the council’s Feb. 27 meeting. Once the council conducts the First Reading, which means Stuart reads it out loud, the council has the option to either:

• Take more time to make changes to the proposed ordinance and hold the Second and Third Readings at future council meetings or

• They can waive those readings and enact the ordinance immediately after the First Reading.


According to Rolfes, Kiger “just can’t put the time into (the Akron EMS Director’s job) that needs to be put into it so she wants to step down from that position. She will continue to volunteer as an Akron EMS EMT.

Councilor Denise Loutsch-Beitelspacher made the motion to accept her resignation and Small seconded it. The vote was 3-0, with Councilors Alex Pick and Jenell Lanning absent.

Kiger’s Comments

“The primary factor that leads to director burnout is that the director ends up covering the on-call EMT shifts other volunteers don’t take,” wrote Interim Director Lynette Kiger in an email. “That can sometimes add up to 80 or more hours on-call per week for the director in addition to the director’s work schedule, and no days off.”

“That is not a sustainable model,” she continued. “Our service license requires us to have an EMT available around the clock every day. Additional EMTs will increase the labor pool.”

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