County budget draft includes new ambulance near Garden Plain

Move could cut response times to Cheney

 

By Sam Jack

Sedgwick County manager Michael Scholes’ draft of the 2019 county budget, released last week, includes $580,459 to put a new ambulance and crew at Fire Station 39, near Lake Afton and five minutes’ drive from Garden Plain.

“In the budgets for the last couple of years, we’ve forecasted a new EMS station out west,” Scholes said. “As I’ve been touring facilities, I noticed that Fire Station 39 was a very nice, big station that wasn’t being fully utilized, so I saw I could really kill two birds with one stone…by putting an EMS crew and ambulance out there to serve not only Cheney and Garden Plain but the Lake Afton area.”

Garden Plain police chief Robert Sharp said response times in his area have long been a concern.

“I know the response times have been slower around here because ambulances were going other places. I don’t know if that’ll change if there’s one that’s closer than Goddard. Half the time, we don’t get the Goddard ambulance anyway,” he said.

Cheney Fire Chief Brad Ewy echoed those comments. Ewy has voiced concerns for years, ever since the ambulance that was located on 267th Street West was moved to the new fire station in Goddard.

“I think it will help us a lot,” Ewy said. “Anything to get another unit closer will help.”

The problem, according to Ewy and Sharp, is that once an ambulance goes into Wichita, it could be sent to any other location in the county. When that happens, the next closest ambulance is located in Wichita’s Westlink area, on Central Avenue east of Maize Road. Ewy said response times were the worst in the rural areas in far southwest Sedgwick County.

County commissioner David Dennis (R-Wichita) said that ambulance response times in western Sedgwick County have had his attention since he joined the commission in January 2017.

“Western Sedgwick County will have even more support from our EMS system, and that’s what I’ve been after all along,” Dennis said.

Carl Koster, a former Cheney city council member and mayor who died in March, often urged Dennis to support more EMS presence in the western part of the county.

“He talked with me about that just about every time we met, and I told him I would keep working. It’s a nice legacy for him that we’re able to finally accomplish what he was really interested in,” Dennis said.

Of the $580,459 it will cost to add an ambulance at Fire Station 39, around $220,000 will be used to purchase the ambulance and equipment. The remainder represents the cost of two full-time paramedics, two full-time crew leaders, supplies and upkeep.

Scholes said that he doesn’t think any commissioners are opposed, making it likely that the new ambulance will survive the rest of the budget process. Commissioners will vote on the budget on Aug. 15.

The first of two public budget hearings was held Wednesday, and the second will be held Thursday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m. The county is also offering an “online public hearing.” Visit www.sedgwickcounty.org/finance to participate.