SIOUX CITY | Forty-four ambulances totaling almost $950,000 over nearly 30 years in Woodbury County.

Also, no defaults by the town organizations that have borrowed the money from a specialty loan account to buy ambulances.

The next one is coming in a few months to Moville, Iowa.

Those are the key statistics from the Woodbury County EMS Loan Fund Program, which was established in 1988 as a way for organizations in small county towns to buy ambulances and some pieces of specialty emergency equipment.

"At the time, it was believed to be the only one of it's kind in Northwest Iowa," Woodbury County Emergency Services Department Director Gary Brown said. "Our EMS providers are very appreciative of having this funding available to pay for large pieces of equipment."

The no-interest revolving loan was initially established with $165,000 from a federal revenue sharing fund. Ambulance groups have up to five years to repay loans. The fund now stands at $192,388, since money not being used is invested to generate revenue.

The most recent loan was for an ambulance in Bronson. In one more payment of $6,000 in May, that loan will be paid off.

Bronson Mayor Dave Amick, who is also a fireman and emergency medical technician on the ambulance crew, said he's been a fan of the option of the county's revolving loan going back to the beginning. Amick, a former Woodbury County sheriff, estimated three Bronson ambulances have been bought via the fund over that time.

"It has been a really good program. It has helped a lot of squads buy a lot of ambulances," Amick said.

Amick said the zero-interest option is a financial boon, when compared to the option of private financing at a bank with interest costs and higher down payments. Brown said not every ambulance bought by county organizations is funded through the revolving loan, as some in Sloan and Danbury recently used other financing.

The cost of the new Moville ambulance, a 2017 Chevrolet Arrow C4500, is $135,000, and will arrive by January. It is not a remotely a situation of the current one being a clunker about to fall apart,  said Moville Ambulance official Jeff Crick, who has done a lot of maintenance work on the existing ambulance.

The current Moville ambulance is about seven years old and approaching 30,000 miles. Crick said the time is right for a new one, since trading at the right time is imperative, before the existing unit gets too beaten up and the value falls below the $65,000 in which he anticipates selling it.

"It is a beautiful unit...If we let it get 10 years old, it will have little value," Crick said.

After the $50,000 county loan and the $65,000 trade-in, the Moville crew will have to come up with about $25,000 in fundraising and other means to complete the purchase.

The county fund isn't just used for ambulances, as some pieces of emergency response equipment also have been financed. That includes three defibrillators, a pager system and one Jaws of Life unit over the years.

Amick said he hopes the program doesn't fall victim to cuts by the county supervisors. Brown said he can see no scenario where the loan program is killed.

"You'd hate to see an old program that has been successful go away," Amick said.

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County and education reporter

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