With a few minutes to spare, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., seized the opportunity Wednesday to visit the new Ellis County Emergency Services Building.
Moran said he was unable to attend the ribbon-cutting and wanted to see the new facility. He was greeted by several Ellis County officials, including commissioners Barbara Wasinger and Marcy McClelland.
The tour was different than many attended by Moran in terms of brevity and the ability of constituents to offer advice or ask questions. Moran didn’t let the chance pass, however, and asked questions and offered to take their advice on what he needed to carry back to Congress.
As it turned out, he spent slightly more than 30 minutes looking at where rural fire trucks were stationed in Hays, as well as the county’s fleet of ambulances.
Moran learned about the county’s volunteer rural fire department from Darin Myers, who assumed the role of rural fire chief last year, taking over from longtime chief and volunteer firefighter Dick Klaus.
He also had the chance to visit with Emergency Management Director Bill Ring’s son, Scott, who has been accepted as an Eagle Scout.
“There is no symbol of quality that I pay attention to that is greater than the Eagle Scout,” Moran said.
But he was in the fire department side of the building, and his questions quickly turned back to that issue.
“What do you need?” Moran asked of Myers. “Equipment? Personnel?”
Myers said they struggle to have enough volunteers, especially in outlying portions of the county.
He told Moran of the county’s recent decision to close a fire station in the far northeast part of the county.
“We couldn’t get volunteers,” Myers said.
Moran asked about the gender of firefighters and their ages.
Myers said it’s an all-male department, noting the three females who were serving had moved away.
As far as age, he said, they range from as young as 18 to a member who is perhaps more than 65 years old.
“There’s a lack of appreciation or understanding of volunteer fire departments,” Moran said of people in Washington.
Moran asked Ellis County Emergency Medical Services Director Kerry McCue about his ability to get enough people to man ambulances.
“We’d like to see a few more,” McCue said. “We have an opening now. We’ve basically found we have to home-grow our own.”
Funding also is an issue, he said, as patients pay approximately 60 percent of the cost to operate the ambulance service, while the county picks up the rest.
“If it wasn’t for the county commission, we wouldn’t be able to give the service we give,” McCue said, giving a nod to the two commissioners attending the tour.
McCue said he’d like to see Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates increase.