POPE COUNTY, Ark. — Pope County EMS is concerned about the future of their organization and the citizens of Pope County if the City of Russellville gets its own ambulance service.
The City of Russellville said its ambulance service will be managed by the Russellville Fire Department, but for more than 50 years, Pope County EMS has provided this service.
Pope County EMS said they don’t understand why the city needs its own service when what they’ve been doing for so long is still working so well.
“To my knowledge, there has never been a call in the 51 or 52 years that we’ve been in operation that has gone unanswered,” said Doug Duerr, Director of Pope County EMS.
Duerr said he’s concerned if the City of Russellville gets its own ambulance service, he’ll have to make cuts.
“If this does happen, there is that chance, a pretty strong likelihood, that either through attrition or through layoffs or through replacement within the county, that there will be some jobs that’ll be shuffled or even lost,” Duerr said.
But the City said call volume has increased and had its own ambulances will only help serve the people of Russellville even better.
“What we’ll see long-term wise, is this partnership, is gonna be beneficial for the whole county,” said City of Russellville Fire Department spokesperson Richard Setian.
But Duerr doesn’t agree.
“Historically, what you see is that one service has to downsize, pull money from other areas and the other service is having to throw in more money and more money to catch up to the demand,” Duerr said.
Even some Russellville City Council members think the city’s own ambulance service is a bad idea.
“You know, I think it’s senseless,” said City Councilmember Shawn Harris. “I think we’re trying to fix something that’s not broken.”
Harris said it’ll be expensive, especially if the city’s plan doesn’t work out.
“If it’s a bad idea, it’s going to be too late,” Harris said. “We’re gonna start something that we’re gonna have to feed on here on out with tax revenue.” Duerr agreed with Harris.
“Why are we asking the citizens of Russellville to pay more money for something that’s already being provided for them as kind of a pay-for-service use?,” Duerr said.
The City of Russellville said this is an opportunity for partnership.
“At some point, when one agency needs the other, we’re available to help them if they have a need, even out in the county and vice versa,” Setian said.
The City of Russellville says this won’t cost taxpayers any more money. The city said the firefighters are dually trained to operate the ambulances and provide those services.