With the recent purchase of three new ambulances for the Butler County Emergency Medical Services Department, the Butler County Commission welcomed new EMS Director Chad Pore Tuesday to discuss a plan to bring the fleet up to snuff.

With the recent purchase of three new ambulances for the Butler County Emergency Medical Services Department, the Butler County Commission welcomed new EMS Director Chad Pore Tuesday to discuss a plan to bring the fleet up to snuff.

“I’ve officially been at this job for a month,” began Pore. “It feels like I’ve been here for 10 years already. The fleet has been the biggest issue we’ve been dealing with lately. Jim Schmidt recently came before the commission to talk about the issue the fleet was having and he was able to get three new ambulances for that.”

The county has recently received the first of its three new ambulances.

“The new ambulance was supposed to be here today so that the commission could look at it,” explained Pore, “but while driving by Eureka, one of the turbo hoses cam off and it was put in the shop to return it to a working order. The fleet has been going through a continual hardship process.”

Pore went on to explain the original problem with the fleet was the ambulances containing Jasper diesel engines. The new problem the fleet is facing is the lack of reserve units.

“We’ve had a number of vehicles that have been out of service,” explained Pore. “Our reserve vehicles have been put into primary duty because of the problems with the Jasper engines. Farmers Garage in Whitewater are doing what they can to help to fix the problem because all of those engines are still under warranty. To Farmers, which is a small business, they’re struggling with Jasper to get their money collected for all the work they’re doing. In the mean time, the vehicles are down and that has caused us to push a lot of vehicles into service.”

The department will not last long with no reserve vehicles to help pick up the slack.

“As we sit today, the only vehicles we have are the ones on the street,” Pore went on. “If a vehicle goes down, we would have to pull a vehicle from a location and it would probably be the ambulance in Rose Hill that would get pulled.”

The fleet is dealing with a number of unreliable vehicles.

“Vehicle 46 is one of the vehicles with a Jasper engine,” explained Pore. “It just had its fourth motor put in and it has started to overheat. Now the vehicle cannot be driven over 50 miles per hour and it cannot accelerate quickly. The last thing we want is or one of these vehicles to break down with a patient in the back. Vehicle 88 is also a Jasper and it has its fifth motor. it is one of the vehicles being used as a trade in for the new ambulances. Vehicle 21 is in service right now in Augusta. We have our fingers crossed and we hope that it won’t fail until we have the new ambulances in service.”

Even the newest ambulance to the fleet has had its problems.

“Besides the brand new ambulance we just received, the second newest ambulance was put into service in August of last year. It already has 38,000 miles on it and it is in the shop having some repairs done after the crew hit a turkey and the bird took off one of the side mirrors. One of the other newer vehicles is also out of service. It had a fuel gauge issue and the crew working with the vehicle had no idea where they were fuel wise.”

Even the vehicles in better shape could use some down time.

“The vehicle we have in Rose Hill has been recently in service as well,” said Pore. “It is now at the 164,000 mile mark and the crew went in to do an oil change on it and all the oil fell out on the floor because the oil fill tube was broken. It also had a battery issue. We found that it had an electrical charging system malfunction where it caused the fuses to melt.”

Pore came before the county commission with a plan of action for the fleet.

“We are not out of the woods with the fleet yet, even with buying the three new ambulances,” said Pore. “I’m going to start building a better fleet plan. Our goal is to better serve the communities we serve. We have three options with this current situation: We can stay on the path we’re on. It will have no additional cost to us, but it will force us to replace another ambulance by the end of this year. The biggest downfall of this plan is the reserve fleet will only have two vehicles and it does not provide us any opportunity for additional savings. It also increases our need to replace vehicles more quickly.

“Option two will be to retain vehicle 7 and 80 and then try to retain vehicle 46, which is currently having engine service failure. There is a possibility to replace the engine with a new block Ford engine. If we use this option, we would lose $13,000 in our trade-in and it would not guarantee a smooth ride with the new engine. It’s a band-aid fix.

“Option three would be to get rid of five vehicles. We’re talking about keeping vehicles 7 and 80 and adding a Sprinter ambulance. If we could do that, it would save us for the rest of the year. It would move those vehicles further back into reserve status and give them a rest.”

The Sprinter should cost $85,000.

“Why wouldn’t we want to have just a fleet of Sprinters?” asked Commissioner Jeff Masterson. “They’re only $85,000 and they get better fuel economy.”

“I’m all about being fiscally responsible,” said Pore. “If we start to put the Sprinter into primary service and place the TerraStar in reserve, we will have to reevaluate the storage capacity and what we require on an ambulance because we will be losing some space. There is a potential we could start using Sprinters as our primary ambulance.”

“I really like that idea,” said Commission Chair Mike Wheeler.

“I’d really like to evaluate using Sprinters in the future,” said Masterson.

“Care wise, you’re not losing anything,” said Commissioner Peggy Palmer.

“You’re not deciding today to purchase, you still have to get bids for that,” said County Administrator Will Johnson.

“Once we get on the right path and get some things in place, there shouldn’t be a lot of issue with our budget,” said Pore. “We’ve got to get it under control first.”

The commission approved the request for the EMS Department to solicit bids for a Sprinter ambulance and the commission will revisit the issue once the process is complete.

The commission also:

• received Anette Graham from Central Plains Agency on Aging to present the 2015 area plan.

• approved the funding request from the City of El Dorado for $25,000 as a direct cash contribution with the remainder of the $50,000 to be made in kind services for the completion of the project on Towanda Avenue. The commission also directed legal counsel and staff to develop an agreement for consideration by the County Commission and participating entities.

• approved an agreement with KDOT related to Butler County’s participation in the federal funds exchange program to receive available funds for the current federal fiscal year.

• approved authorizing the Department of Public Works to obtain a proposal for construction engineering services related to the Fourmile Creek Bridge replacement project on SW Butler Road south of Andover.

Kari Adams can be reached at kadams@butlercountytimesgazette.com.