City and county explore ambulance district

Alexis Barker, News Edtior


After expressing concerns over the level of service being provided by Newcastle’s current ambulance service, the city wants the county commissioners to explore the option of creating an EMS district to help fund ambulance operations in Weston County. 


The Newcastle City Council held a meeting on April 26 to discuss its concerns about the ambulance service provided by Campbell County Health, who took over emergency medical services in Weston County on July 1, 2021, from former Newcastle Ambulance Service owner and operator Roger Hespe. 


Under Hespe, the longtime volunteer ambulance service became a private enterprise, and at the time of its sale, Mayor Pam Gualtieri claims the council was told by buyers that the services they provided would be equal to — if not better than — the services provided by Hespe’s business. According to the mayor, however, concerns over wait times and what she said is an increase in life-flight use have led her and council members to question whether or not the community is receiving the level of service they expected.


During the April 26 meeting, Christopher Beltz, paramedic and director of urgent and emergent services for Campbell County Health, said that a lack of staff has meant that only one ambulance is being fully staffed 24/7. He noted that this is also part of Campbell County Health’s business model. 


According to Beltz, two employees are always ready to respond 24/7 in Newcastle. Those two people staff one ambulance. The other ambulance owned by the service are without EMTs to staff them.


“We have tried to recruit enough providers for on-duty and backup coverage,” Beltz explained.


As a result of their inability to recruit local EMTs, when a second call comes in, the service needs 45 minutes to an hour to get a second crew to Newcastle from Wright or Gillette.


“We are providing a backup crew; they are just an hour away. We don’t have citizens that work for us that can be here in 10 to 15 minutes. We are actively recruiting. There seems to be little or no interest,” Beltz said. 


It was later confirmed that Beltz was referring to EMT classes that were offered, but were not advertised locally — only online through Facebook and other means. 


Gualtieri also questioned the increase in life-flight use, stating that her research shows that from 2017 to November of 2019 there were four life flights in Weston County. From October 2021 to 2023, there were 12. 


Gualtieri said this was a huge difference. 


Beltz pointed out that the call for life-flight use is not made by the ambulance service but by the doctors. He explained that several things are considered when transferring a patient; these include staffing, weather, road conditions and the acuity of the patient. 


The council opined, though, that the decision to use life flight could be affected by the hour wait time for an ambulance to transfer the patient. 


“From our understanding, we need the backup,” Gualtieri said. 




And Beltz said he agrees wholeheartedly. 


“I think we agree there is a problem. We need to work on building up that workforce,” Beltz said, assuring the council that active recruiting would continue. 


A new set of rules that allow Wyoming counties to set up and tax for an EMS district may offer a solution to the problem, and Gualtieri got the ball rolling on May 1 when she proposed pursuing an EMS district to the council. 


“It would have to be something the county goes with … that the people vote for. It would have to go to a ballot,” Gualtier said. 


The Weston County Commissioners discussed the topic on May 16. Chairman Ed Wagoner reported that the formation would take at least a year and that a tax is not guaranteed but must be voted on by the citizens. 


Commissioner Don Taylor questioned the benefit of creating the district, noting that he is worried about the current ambulance service. 


“If you form a district, they (Newcastle Ambulance Services) are under no obligation to stick around. Two mills would generate close to $400,000 a year, which would be a very small amount of what it takes to put an ambulance service together,” Wagoner said, adding that it would be the district’s job to go after the bills. 


Commissioner Nathan Todd questioned if there was any rule stating that the district can’t work with the private business to fund the ambulance service. According to Wagoner, he had not seen anything on the topic in the bill’s text. 


The new law establishing the process for setting up the EMS district goes into effect on July 1, and it allows the commissioners, by resolution, to begin formation of a district to provide emergency medical services. This would include specifying the appointment of a board of directors of the district, specifying taxation requirements and requiring the board of directors for an emergency medical service to attempt to collect for services rendered as specified, according to the legislation. 


At the time of establishment, which would occur only after voters approve the district and tax, the legislation states that “the county shall levy a tax for that year upon the taxable property in the district in its county for its proportionate share based on assessed evaluation of the estimated amount of funds needed by each district providing emergency medical services.” 


The tax for the district, the legislation continues, “shall not exceed in any one year the amount of two mills on each dollar of assessed valuation of the property unless up to an additional two mills is approved by the board of directors and approved by the electors.” 


If approved, the additional tax would remain in place until a vote was made during a general election to discontinue the tax. 


News Letter Journal

News Letter Journal
14 W. Main St.
P.O. Box 40
Newcastle, WY 82701
Ph: (307) 746-2777
Fax: (307) 746-2660

Email Us