Ennis town hall

Ennis town council looks to future

Ennis town council looks to future

ENNIS – Plans for the future dominated the Ennis town commission’s Thursday, November 8, meeting.


EMS service

Allen Rohrback, CEO of Madison Valley Medical Center, came to ask the town of Ennis – via the town commission – to join with the medical center and Ennis Ambulance Service in taking a hard look at the community’s EMS needs and how to best fulfill them heading into the future.

Rohrback said the medical center and the ambulance service were seeking additional partners in an effort to examine the community’s EMS needs and how to meet them. He told the commissioners that despite there being three basic types of emergency needs – a simple emergency, basic life support and advanced life support – emergency medical services are “complicated,” especially when the transfer of a patient is required and critical care is imperative.

Summing up current EMS services, Rohrback cited the ambulance service, The Ruby Valley Hospital in Sheridan, American Medical Response/ AMR Medical Transportation in Bozeman, and the use of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft to transport patients and provide emergency services.

He also noted that like in many other smaller communities the ambulance service revolves around volunteers. However, their numbers are dwindling, especially when factoring in the amount of medical training required to become an EMS provider.  Then there is the high cost of providing EMS services. Even if the EMS provider earned $1,000 per ambulance run, for example, and made 300 runs annually, this $300,000 would probably not cover the cost of the medical equipment, personnel and other costs associated with providing EMS services, Rohrback said.

Some communities, he told the commission, create hospital districts, or fire districts, or apply a community mil levy to provide for EMS services.

What the medical center and the ambulance service were proposing, he said, was to study the community’s EMS needs. Safetech Solutions, a consulting company, could survey the community’s EMS needs and propose ways to meet these needs. Rohrback said he was talking to Aarron Reinert, MA, a partner with Safetech about what the company could offer, the scope of the project and the “deliverables.”

The overall cost for this would be $30,000, Rohrback said.

Rohrback said that Safetech had done this for all of northern Wyoming for that state’s Department of Health and cited other examples of the company’s work.

The medical center had a proposal to begin the study but was a “couple of conversations away” from implementing it without garnering additional partners, Rohrback said.

He asked the town to consider partnering with the medical center and the ambulance service and offer any amount they might deem appropriate to take the next step forward with the study of EMS services.

“We’re more interested in the partners than the money,” Rohrback told the commission.

He also noted that he intended to approach the county and other entities about participating in the study as partners. 

The commission had several questions about Rohrback’s ideas.

Mayor Blake Leavitt wondered about including Ruby Valley Hospital in the study, and wondered if the study would encompass the county, not just Ennis. Rohrback said it would look at needs and how to fill them and this would include the larger picture.

Commissioner John Bancroft noted that the town’s budget was already tight and wondered if there were ways to get additional funds. He said he wasn’t against the project, but wanted to know how much the hospital was putting up to do the study. He also noted that with ambulance crew members coming from Cameron and other distant parts of the county that response times would be long – a concern when considering EMS service.

Rohrback talked about different ways to acquire funding, including a county mill levy, special tax districts. He also noted that for rural areas, response times often are long.

Commission chairman Brian Vincent called it a great idea and wondered if there was a dollar figure the commission could come up with. “But I’ll leave that to someone else,” he said. 

Wrapping up discussion, Commissioner Lisa Roberts suggested that the commission get behind the study, pledge its support and participate in doing it, but not immediately specify a dollar amount. She suggested that $5,000 might be a good number to use to put the town “at the table” with the study as a partner.

Vincent said maybe it would be better to kick in $2,500 initially, then if the county came in with $5,000, the town could up it’s ante another $2,500. Vincent wondered if a letter of support would be enough to involve the town. 

Rohrback said this would be enough to move forward.

The commissioners agreed to pledge their support for the project and participate in it, with a dollar amount to be set at a later date.


Main Street grant

Leavitt told the commission that this grant was coming up and that with the town’s participation in this grant, it could build up the town’s infrastructure, and push Ennis to the forefront.

“It sets up progress,” he said of the grant, which would create an overall plan for the town that ties together previous town plans and priorities, including the 2011 town plan. After the Main Street grant was attained, this would also allow the town to pursue other grants and work its way up what Commissioner Roberts called a tiered system of grant-getting, where less match is required on each level of the tier. 

To acquire the grant, the town would need to spend $6,000, and the state would kick in a 5:1 match in the form of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) of $30,000 - $40,000.

Roberts said the grant was “no gamble.” She noted that other communities – she mentioned Roundup, Red Lodge, Columbia Falls and Thompson Falls – who had followed this process were making strides towards improvements.

The plan, she said, would look at all of the public places in the community, not just the downtown.

Roberts said a community assessment would determine the scope of the work to be done, calling it a “springboard” for other development and work funded through grants. This would give the town a plan to move forward and get help with marketing itself, and improving all aspects Ennis.

Bancroft wondered what the Chamber of Commerce was going to kick into the effort.

Chamber Executive Director Halley Perry said the Chamber was supporting the Main Street grant, but no dollar amount had been set for this year. The Chamber was helping to write the grant, and said the Chamber and the town were “in the same boat.”

Leavitt said there was $10,000 in the budget to cover the cost of this. 

On a motion by Roberts and Commissioner Cory Hardy, the commission approved the $6,000 to put towards the grant.

Commissioner Brandi Palmerton voted against this effort.


Community park plan

Using $5,000 – $3,000 contributed ($2,500 from Imerys Talc ; $500 from the grocery store’s Christmas tree sales in 2017; and another anticipated $500 from grocery store Christmas trees this year) – Leavitt and Roberts pitched a plan to look at the Comley Park, and find a way to use this space better.

Roberts said the existing park as a well pump house that has two bathrooms, dated playground equipment and few other amenities. What Roberts said she’d like to see considered for the site are a splash pad, updated playground equipment and other upgrades to the park, a way to use this space better.

To the contributed money, the town would need to ad $1,500 to create the plans she said.

Bancroft wondered about parking. He said there wasn’t enough room to park there, let alone put in more playground equipment. He also called the park intersection dangerous, saying it would have to be a walk-in park.

Vincent noted that the money could come from the planning fund, money already budgeted for such efforts.

Roberts and Hardy offered a motion to spend this amount for the park plans and the commission approved it unanimously.


In other business:

• Jack Finley and Jennifer Doney gave the town a check for $200 from the Bahá’í Faith as a donation to the Arbor Day fund.

• Chief of Police John Moore reported that his new vehicle was working fine and that he liked it, but getting used to a new vehicle was not easy. “It’s different,” he said, “it’s not the Crown Vic.” The new vehicle came from the San Antonio or Dallas – Ft. Worth police department. These departments, Moore said, dispose of new leased vehicles after 70,000 miles of police use. The city bought one of these and Moore transferred all of the gear he could – radio, sirens, etc. – from the old car to the new one to reduce costs. He said the new car is in great shape and that the ambulance crew would be using the Ford Crown Victoria police car to help with their work.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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