Ambulance board considers options
By Daniel Arens
Even as the Mercer County Ambulance Board tries to make progress on financial reports and management of the service, they are continually plagued with a variety of issues with different ambulances.
Joe Cuccia, owner of J&L Automotive Recovery in Hazen, spoke with the board members at their June 27 meeting to clarify the different issues with each of the rigs needing work and provide his view on what decisions the board should make regarding those rigs.
“There seems to be some discrepancies to what’s going on with different units,” Cuccia said.
Specifically, the ambulance currently owns four rigs, with a fifth rig purchased and scheduled to arrive in the next few months. The ambulances are identified by numbers: 6250, 6251, 6252, and 6253.
Ambulance 6253 has caused the greatest degree of headaches. The rig is a 2008 Ford E-450 with 75,000 miles on it. In early 2012, the rig was sent in for repairs to Fargo, but Cuccia explained that those repairs were not comprehensive enough to deal with the root problem of a new engine.
According to Cuccia, Rig 6253 is running at 70-80 percent capacity at all times, which it was not designed to do. He also noted that other rigs of the same model have similar issues. Specifically, over-heating occurs in the engine of the rig because the design is very compressed, with little airflow to help cool down extreme heats.
Cuccia said the board could either replace the engine entirely, with a 12-month, 12,000 mile warranty on the new identical engine, for nearly $19,000, or they could instead install an Asheville motor, which has a better design to prevent some of the issues with overheating, with an increased cost of roughly $22,000, not including auxiliaries, which could bring the price to as high as $28,000.
Next, Cuccia discussed Rig 6250, a 2009-model ambulance, which he said is “right around the corner” to having the same issues as Rig 6253, and advised the ambulance board be proactive in dealing with those issues now rather than waiting for the rig to become as problematic as the other one. He stressed again that these problems are not due to drivers or maintenance, but to the nature of the diesel engines running the large rigs Mercer County has.
Rig 6252 has had four repairs for emission and injection issues. Once again, Cuccia explained that this is a common issue for the engine in Rig 6252. Mercer County’s rigs have longer distances to travel than similar rigs in New York City, as Cuccia used in an example, but the latter would have more runs.