Residents, in the small central Missouri town of Windsor, are doing what they can to keep their two-ambulance service in business.
A silent auction started Friday night and goes through next Friday. About $800 worth of goods and services were donated in just two days. A benefit concert will be held in September.
Town officials say poor oversight and billing issues led to nearly $500,000 in uncollected fees, and the IRS threatening to shut them down, over unpaid payroll taxes.
Without ambulance service in Windsor, residents would rely on service in Clinton, which is 18 miles away. Rural residents north of Windsor area are already 14 miles from a Windsor ambulance. The nearest location would be Warrensburg, which is about 25 miles away for those residents.
"I don't care if you're six days old or 96, if you have a medical emergency, you don't have minutes to spare," Sandy Moyer, who helped organize the auction, said.
Mike Barkofske, the ambulance district director, took the job a month ago. He said he discovered mismanagement by an ever-changing board, that was often too short of members, to legally make decisions helped create the financial issues.
"For whatever reason, the collection service our billing company used was not aggressive at pursuing those charges," Barkofske said. "There was also a period of one year, where there was over 130 ambulance calls, that weren't billed at all."
He said the district is now using a more aggressive collection service, and working with the IRS on a payment plan, to prevent seizure of assets.
"I don't believe our ambulance rates had been raised in over 12 years," he said. "And we were the lowest service in a 5-county area."
In addition to hiring a more aggressive collection company, the district's board agreed to raise rates, and hire a new payroll firm. They are working with a tax professional in hopes of getting the IRS to lessen their penalties.
And no one gets rich working for the ambulance service. The top salary is about $40,000 a year.
The auction at the ambulance barn won't make a large financial dent, but it helps the morale of those fighting to keep the ambulance service from closing.
"There are so many of us that do care, and realize how vital they are," Moyer said.
Copyright 2013 KCTV (MeredithCorp.) All rights reserved.
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