KINGSBURG – The Kingsburg Fire Department now officially has $250,000 to spend on upgrading an ambulance and purchasing power-load cot systems thanks to a donation from the Tri-County Health Care District.

A ceremonial check was presented at the Oct. 11 Health Care board meeting. The board also approved an updated grant policy, appointed board member Lori Sanders as treasurer and heard an update regarding a new district website and survey.

“We appreciate the service you provide for us and we’re looking forward to this helping you out,” board Chairman Arlie Rogers said after signing the large check. Rogers said the monies were awarded through the grant application process and the new fire department equipment will benefit residents throughout the health care district.

“They serve about 85 square miles encompassing our three districts and beyond the borders of just Kingsburg,” Rogers said.

“This is going to help out quite a bit,” Fire Department Chief Tim Ray said. Earlier, Chief Ray said that one of their ambulances has close to 400,000 miles on it and is in need of relief.

"We definitely need another ambulance,” Ray said in a May interview. “The second-newest one has more than 400,000 miles on it. The other one we’ve got is just really, really old and is not in the best of shape. The units also need some lifting equipment to safely load patients into the cab.”

The board also approved a new grant policy that dictates procedures, guidelines and forms that will be needed as local groups seek grants from the board in the future.

Grants may be awarded to help fund the operation of free clinics, diagnostic and testing centers, health education programs, wellness and prevention programs, rehabilitation, aftercare and any other health care service provider, groups and organizations, which are necessary for the maintenance of good physical and mental health in the communities served by the district.

Grants could be approved for helping in the operation of one or more health facilities or health services such as outpatient programs, services, facilities, retirement programs, chemical dependency programs or other programs at any location within or outside of the district for the benefit of the district and people served by the district.

The amounts of grants awarded will, in part, be based on the amount of funds available to the district, the policy states.

Health Care District board member Gary Snyder said a question was raised at a prior meeting whether the grant monies could fund mental health programs.

“It’s clearly states that in paragraph two so I think that clarifies that matter for us.”

The board also heard from Integrated Brand Management owner Todd Towsley who will set up a website and create a mailer survey for the district. Towsley is also helping the board update its mission statement to reflect its current goals.

“It’s just a draft. I’m sure we’ll work on it and finalize it by next month,” Towsley said of an initial mission statement.

Chairman Rogers said since the district no longer operates a hospital, yet still receives taxpayer funds each year, its role and the purpose of those funds has changed.

“This is a spring board for us to think about what we’re doing now,” Rogers said regarding updating its mission statement. “This takes into account where we are now as a district. We’re no longer running a hospital; we no longer have medical facilities. So what are we doing with the taxpayer dollars and why do we want to keep this in force and how do we want to affect change within the district?”

Towsley said he will bring back cost estimates to create a website and survey for the district at the next meeting. Since the Health Care District’s boundaries include three counties, sending out a survey isn’t as simple as mailing it to all residents in a specific zip code, he said.

Regarding the new website, Towsley said he must also take into consideration new Americans with Disabilities Act standards that all sites must meet.

“We just have to make sure the site’s accessible to everyone. There are levels to that so we’ll address that and make sure the site can be improved upon as we go.”

The district is also considering updating its phone number as Administrative Clerk Shereme Watson says they are still receiving up to 30 phone calls daily regarding hospital-related issues.

“Our number was also published back in January on insurance cards so I get numerous calls on top of that to see if we have a patient.”

Watson says she’ll continue redirecting callers and the cost of having a temporary second phone line installed will be investigated. A decision was not yet reached, but the board will likely have one line with a recording that forwards callers to the appropriate entity and second line with a new phone number strictly for new district business.

In other matters, a fee agreement with the Farley Law firm was moved to a future meeting so it could be discussed in closed session. The contract calls for legal services to be provided at $335 per hour for law firm partners, between $225 and $335 per hour for associates, $75 per hour for law clerks and between $25 and $135 for paralegals and support staff.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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