EMS story tops 2018 headlines, solution in reach for early 2019

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The News-Register conducted its annual news survey last week, seeking reader input on what the community as a whole perceives to be the Top 10 stories of the year. It’s a very subjective, non-scientific process by its nature, but always a fun and interesting one.
We scanned our pages from January through December, taking note of on-going issues and timely, breaking news. Then we asked local residents from all walks of life to weigh in, ranking their top 10 choices for stories that will be remembered as having an impact or creating memories in 2018.
Looking back over the past 52 editions it was crystal clear just how much the local debate on how, why and if the ambulance service should be revamped dominated the headlines. It’s a hot-button issue all have a vested interest in, so it came as no surprise that the EMS story was voted No. 1.
As much as this issue has been talked about, negotiations between the county and city are now entering a critical stage. There are several key points on which both boards agree, though the remaining differences are significant. Topping that list is what a top-notch EMS program should cost.
This week’s edition includes a story on a model that could provide a road map to the negotiations process. The city and county board have looked in depth at Nebraska City’s ambulance service as an example worth studying, so we did our own, independent reporting, letting officials there describe the service -- minus any local spin.
Granted, it’s not an apples to apples comparison as there are differences in population and proximity to metropolitan areas, which impacts transfer revenues and access to part-time personnel. However, an objective look at the quality of service, staffing levels and annual taxpayer subsidy leaves absolutely no doubt that Aurora/Hamilton County can create a top-notch, fire-based ambulance service at a drastically lower price tag than the city’s initial $1.2 million plan.
This has been a complex, emotional discussion and its time to find a solution. We look forward to sharing very specific details on the negotiations process, hoping to help the community gain trust and confidence in its ambulance service going forward.
Using the Nebraska City EMS model as a road map could let city and county leaders reach all the stated goals, writing a headline in the process that would be tough to beat for top story of 2019.
Kurt Johnson

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