West Side Community Ambulance vehicles are rolling up the miles, leading ambulance board members in October to ask staff to look into options for buying not one if not two new vehicles.

The newest of the four ambulances in West Side’s fleet is a 2017 model approaching 100,000 miles with ample cap room left before reaching the limit of 250,000 miles established by an oversight agency.

Two other ambulances have service limits in excess of 300,000 miles because their power trains have been replaced, but one (a 2011 model) is approaching 290,000 and the other (a 2013) has logged more than 260,000 miles, according to the staff.

A fourth is an older, box-style ambulance with 215,000. That vehicle is a little-used backup, said Joshua Brace, interim director of ambulance operations.

The provider, operated by the West Side Community Healthcare District, currently staffs two ambulances 24 hours a day.

Brace said the newest unit is regularly in service while the 2011 and 2013 models are rotated to get the most use out of each.

“We have a little time, but we definitely need to get one if not two ambulances,” he told Mattos Newspapers.

Another consideration is coming into play as well.

Next year, ambulance board President Dennis Brazil said, the district will likely be resuming primary response duties for the Santa Nella area and will need to have a third unit on the road - at least for 12 hours a day.

“I would rather be pro-active and ahead of this,” Brazil stated. “Our ambulances are getting pretty old and tired.”

The base cost for the 2017 ambulance was approximately $96,000, plus radios, antennas and a power loader, said Roberta Casteel, administrative supervisor for the ambulance service. The district put most of the cost on a five-year financing plan with annual payments of $17,181.

Upgrading the on-board equipment can significantly add to the purchase price of an ambulance, Brace noted.

Board member David Varnell asked that district staff “look at our financials to see if we can at least buy one if not work it out to buy two....maybe buy one (outright) and put another on a payment plan.”

Leo Landaverde of Greenland Advisors, the district’s accounting and financial firm, said he has calculated the district’s economic standing and determined that it should be able to move forward with the purchase of an ambulance. 

Landaverde said he will look into the options for purchasing two new vehicles.

“I will work something out,” he told the board.

The priority, Brazil said, is “to get new, good equipment on the road.”

Purchasing new ambulances would also provide crews with the latest in technology, Brazil added.

He acknowledged, however, that the district must run the numbers before determining if it has the wherewithal to purchase two new vehicles.

“It is going to be really tight. We have to see how all that plays out,” he commented.

Brazil said the district does have a little over $300,000 in one account that has not been touched for some time.

While it may be able to dip into that fund, he said, it must do so prudently.

“If that money has been there and we haven’t needed it, maybe it makes sense to purchase one outright and a second on a payment plan,” Brazil stated. “That way we’re good for the next five years.”

He emphasized that the district must also develop an ambulance replacement plan and begin putting money away for subsequent vehicle purchases.

Brazil also suggested that West Side look into community-based fund-raising options, citing Escalon Community Ambulance as an example of an emergency medical services agency which successfully turned to the public for support.

“We were going to start that,” Varnell stated, “but we never got anywhere with it.”