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DCAD faces a shortage of leadership, funding

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The call for nominations went out, but no one responded. Now the Delta County Ambulance District (DCAD) is in need of an emergency infusion.

Election Day for special districts like DCAD is May 4. But in Delta County, only the hospital board generated enough interested candidates to generate the ballots that went out in the mail this week.

"On May 5, I'm going to be the only Indian standing," said Tom Huerkamp, one of five members of DCAD's board of directors. The other four seats will be vacant, either because of term limits or lack of desire to run for re-election.

"We have a legal opinion from the special district's attorney that I should be able to appoint people," Huerkamp said. "We're waiting to make sure that clears the secretary of state's office. As I read it, the provision says I can appoint people and if I don't within 60 days, the county commissioners will do it."

Huerkamp says he has lined up three people willing to step up, including Glen Black, who was appointed to the DCAD board last fall. Because he was so new to the board, Black said he simply missed the deadline to file a petition for the May election.

Term limits prevent board president Kathie Lester from seeking re-election. She, too, has been trying to recruit board members.

She's found many residents of the district are hesitant to get involved, due to the financial uncertainties surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

"Medicare and Medicaid just don't pay enough, and our mill levy won't carry the whole load," Lester said. "We're operating on a very small mill levy and it's done well for many years, but it's getting pretty tough."

Because Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements are so low, DCAD has had to dip into its reserves, Huerkamp said. "We've reduced some costs pretty dramatically," he said, "but by 2018, we could be in real trouble, to the point of not being able to man the stations 24/7."

For that reason, the board has decided to ask the district's voters to approve a mill levy increase, even though Huerkamp understands that may seem "suicidal."

"We're getting together a group of supporters, understanding that this first stab, if we go on the November ballot, may fail, but we've got to start telling the story.

"We've got an excellent ambulance service in this district, with great crews, but we're getting killed with this Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement, just like everybody else. We've got to start getting people to understand that."

In the meantime, DCAD welcomes inquiries from residents interested in serving on the board.

Lester said, "Having four new members could be a positive thing. They may see something the rest of us may have missed."

Residents of the Cedaredge - Orchard City - Delta area committed to maintaining 24-hour emergency response are encouraged to contact the ambulance district office for more information. Kimberly Cormier, designated election official, can be reached at 874-7001.

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