HISTORY OF WASHINGTON AREA AMBULANCE DISTRICT AND AMBULANCE SERVICE PRIOR TO FORMATION OF THE WASHINGTON AREA AMBULANCE DISTRICT
The Washington Area Ambulance District was established by a vote of the people in August, 1980. The first day of operation by the District was February 1, 1981. Prior to establishment of the Washington Area Ambulance District, ambulance service was provided by the City of Washington from July 1969 - January 1981 and Nieburg -Vitt and Otto Funeral homes prior to July 1969.
In February 1969, a change in the way the funeral homes were required to compensate on call staff and notice of required minimum standards for ambulance equipment and personnel were passed, effective July 1, 1969. Due to these changes, funeral homes in Franklin County and across the State of Missouri announced that they would discontinue providing ambulance service to their communities. Dedicated volunteers stepped up and filled that void by completing training, utilizing ambulances that were either donated to or purchased (at minimal cost) by each city. The Washington Ambulance Service was started by this volunteer group and supported by the City of Washington as a department of the City.
During this time of operation by the City as the Washington Ambulance Service, the volunteer staff was supplemented with on-duty City of Washington staff (police officers / clerical staff) that were trained as pre hospital care providers - American Heart Association Advanced First Aid or Emergency Medical Technicians to respond to calls. Due to the need for daytime help, several area industries also allowed their staff to run calls from their workplace during daytime hours. Two medically trained members of their work force would pick up the ambulance from the ambulance base in the morning and return it back to the base at the end of their shift. They were responsible for responding to all requests for ambulance service as the first out response ambulance.
The locations that ambulances have been stationed at have changed over the years. In 1969, the ambulances were kept in a white outbuilding with a sliding garage door on Market Street, North of the current Washington Lumber building. On duty crews would respond from home (after receiving a phone call from the dispatcher), get the key to the garage door padlock from the back porch of the St. Peter's Church parsonage, unlock and open the garage door, and respond to the request for ambulance service.
A few years later, a former gas station at Fifth and Stafford Street was purchased by the City of Washington to be utilized as an ambulance base. There was room at this site for two ambulances to be garaged, a small meeting room/office, and parking for responding personnel. This site served as the base of operations until the City of Washington completed the Municipal Complex at Fifth and Jefferson Streets. The Municipal Complex housed the Library on the Upper Level, with the Police and Ambulance Departments sharing space in the lower level. In 1977, the City of Washington hired Wayne Carroll as Ambulance Coordinator, their first full time ambulance employee.
In 1981, when the ambulance service changed from the City of Washington to the Washington Area Ambulance District, the District continued to utilize this space as an ambulance base through a lease agreement with the City of Washington. The Washington Area Ambulance District remained at the Municipal Complex until December of 1994, when a new Headquarters building was completed and placed in service at 515 Washington Avenue. This location remains as the Headquarters location today. A satellite base (House 2) was constructed at 2550 Highway A, staffed and placed in service in June 2008.
The transition from the City of Washington to the Washington Area Ambulance District went smoothly. The City of Washington supported the change and eliminated a phone tax upon passage of the ballot issue for an Ambulance District, as promised prior to the election. A number of the office items, furniture and two fully equipped older ambulances were donated to the District, with a recently purchased fully equipped modular ambulance being sold to the District for $ 5,000. As the District remained at the Municipal Complex base, there was very little change in operations on February 1, 1981.
The founding Board members of the Washington Area Ambulance District were Rev. Arthur F. Ebeling, Kenneth W. Filla, Oliver F. Stoenner, Richard F. Schmidt, Robert L. Phillips, and John G. Tobben. This group set the stage for the District development and contributed greatly to the success of the District over the years. There have been a number of individuals that have served as Directors in the past, all contributing their time, sense of community, knowledge and business sense as Directors.
Throughout this time of growth and increased calls for service, The Board of Directors continued to take steps to keep up with the times by updating equipment, increasing personnel, while being frugal with the taxpayer's money. All Directors were at that time, and continue to be today, totally volunteer with no compensation for their time and service to the community. The increased call volume and need for reduced response times to meet the needs of pre hospital patients also resulted in hiring of more staff (full time and part time) over the past 33+ years. The goal of providing quality care to the community with state of the art equipment and cutting edge patient care protocols has been achieved and continues as we move into the future.
In addition to the equipment upgrades, staffing increases and overall operational changes to adapt with the changing times, the Board of Directors also placed a ballot initiative before the voters to impose a 3/8 cent sales tax in lieu of the personal property and real estate assessment that was in place in 2006. This sales tax initiative was overwhelmingly passed in 2006 and has resulted in the District rolling back the personal property and real estate tax to zero as promised and funding District operations through a combination of sales tax revenue and fee for service.
We are proud to serve as emergency responders to the community. While we are not a City of Washington department, we work closely with the other emergency service agencies, Washington Communications, Washington Police, and Washington Fire to provide comprehensive medical services and coordinated response / patient care to the Washington community.
Terry C. Buddemeyer, Chief