Oroville's EMTs resign, form own non-profit ambulance service

Mayor says close to interlocal agreement with county

We will not leave the City of Oroville without ambulance service Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth

OROVILLE – Oroville’s EMTs say they will resign from their positions Aug. 23, 215, claiming frustration with the city and especially Mayor Chuck Spieth.

In five identical signed letters, Jackie Daniels, Janet Allen, Paul Bouchard, Lisa Bordwell and Tasha Robinson, claim the mayor “yelled, smashed his fist on the table and absolutely refused to give us any information.”

However, other people attending the Tuesday, July 20 council meeting didn’t see it quite the same way, including the mayor himself.

Mayor Chuck Spieth
Mayor Spieth

“I told Chris Allen that I would not answer any more questions, why should I he isn’t even part of the ambulance service,” said Mayor Chuck Spieth,” adding that he did not feel the meeting had become a hostile environment, although he admit to being frustrated.

“He (Allen) has made some pretty wild accusations about the city taking money from a donation to the ambulance fund. The city is audited, the rural ambulance district is audited… the state has never come to us and said we’ve misappropriated funds. We can account for every penny of it,” said the mayor.

The city and county are in negotiations to sign a new interlocal agreement, which Mayor Spieth says is nearly complete and very much like the ones from past years.

“We actually came to a tentative agreement last Thursday, it just needs to be fine tuned using the existing agreement and making a few tweaks,” said Spieth. “We are almost to the point where everyone can sign it.”

Allen, who dropped off copies of the resignation letters at the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune says the EMTs are forming their own non-profit ambulance group called North Star Medical, which he says has been registered with the Department of Health. He said the group has already received the donation of a 1999 Ford ambulance from Ballard Ambulance and they are ready to serve the EMS District should they be hired to do so.

“Chuck blew up at me and I told him he will not disrespect me as long as I am a taxpayer in this city. At that meeting all the EMTs informed him that I speak for them and they said the same at the county commissioner’s meeting,” said Allen, who claims the county and city can’t work out their issues.

“In the meantime we will be supplying service to the EMS district so no one has to suffer,” he said. “We will do it for the tax dollars and on an on call basis like no other entity can do,” said Allen, referring to private ambulance services.

He said the levy money the rural and city ambulance districts bring in would be enough to pay the EMTs a salary.

“The nice thing is we are a non-profit, if you can’t afford to pay for your call we treat it as a write-off,” he said.

Currently the two districts, which share an the ambulances and ambulance building are divided about two-third ownership by the county and one-third by the city, according to Allen, something that JoAnn Denney, Oroville’s City Clerk/Treasuer agrees with.

“The city has about a one-third interest in the property. It is based on revenues and levy amounts so it fluctuates from year to year,” said Denney.

About Allen’s charge that the city took $70,000 from a donation to the emergency services fund and used it to pay for their share of the last ambulance purchased, both Denney and Spieth disagree vehemently.

Denney also points to the state audits and says that the money is still in the account and that the account’s purpose is for the purchase of equipment for the EMS District.

While the mayor doesn’t know what will happen with the current EMTs after they resign, he wanted to let everyone know the people in the EMS District will receive emergency ambulance coverage.

“We will not leave the City of Oroville without an ambulance service. It may not be as it is structured as it is now… it probably won’t be,” said the mayor, adding that he was taking anything away from the quality of the current EMTs.

“They do an excellent job, but we have the right in an emergency situation to do a temporary hire… The county has the same right,” Spieth said. “At our last meeting with County Planner Perry Huston and the commissioners, Commissioner Kennedy said, ‘I believe we have an emergency situation.'”