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Etc.: Questions
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Sometimes stories in this newspaper raise more questions than answers, or perhaps questions and really no answers, at least not yet:

Ticket, please: Last week’s Journal reported on four 4-H groups’ pulling out of providing concessions for Platteville Dairy Days because the groups don’t like the replacement of cash sales with tickets. The Dairy Days board is meeting June 2 to consider the issue, as well as how concessions sale proceeds are divided and paid out.

The Dairy Days board is entitled to decide what it wants, since the board runs the event. Any vendor is free to participate or not, including charitable groups such as 4-H. (That insight brought to you by Platteville Optimist Cheese Curds — nobody can eat just one.)

The question, however, that seems obvious but may have been missed, and really needs to be answered, is: How do the customers feel? Did those who attended Dairy Days and bought more tickets than they used feel like they made an extra contribution to the community, or ripped off? Are tickets more convenient or less convenient than cash for those buying food? 

The 4-H groups that for now will not be part of the 2015 Dairy Days say their sales went down; Dairy Days management said last week food sales were “about average.” It would be helpful to have a more definitive answer, though in a sense it doesn’t really matter except to prove the point of one side or the other on the issue. Again, though, the opinions of the Dairy Days board or the departing 4-H groups are less important than the people they’re supposed to be serving.

Indeed, the customers are the people whose opinions must count first and foremost. Dairy Days is a great event (helped along mightily by Dick Brockman, the former owner of your favorite weekly newspaper, for years without public credit), but no one has to go to Dairy Days. In an era of unprecedented entertainment options, Dairy Days management needs to keep in mind that giving reasons for people to not go to Dairy Days could result in the eventual end of Dairy Days.

The EMS vote: On Tuesday, the Platteville Common Council is scheduled to decide, as we report on page 1 this week, whether the city wants to get out of the EMS business and transfer Platteville EMS property (well, except for the EMS garage, which is probably useful only as scrap metal once cleaned out) to Southwest Health. 

My opinion on the subject has gone back and forth over the past week. Common Council president Eileen Nickels thinks transfer to Southwest Health, even with the contracted payouts from the city to the hospital, will probably be a financial wash given the need for a new EMS building, the eventual need for new ambulances, and Platteville EMS’ apparent wish, independent of Southwest Health, of going to a paramedic-based service, in part based on staffing issues. It would be a shame to end the tradition of volunteer EMTs, but EMS administrator Brian Allen seems to think that finding EMTs, particularly for day shifts, will prove increasingly difficult. (It is already increasingly difficult in some parts of this area.)

Having a paramedic service will not necessarily be a financial wash for EMS users, however. A letter elsewhere on this page asks how much the ambulance fee will be for an ambulance staffed by a career paramedic over paid-per-call EMTs. That’s a good question, though whether that can be answered affirmatively is, well, questionable given different health insurers and their reimbursements. It is, however, disturbing (and sadly typical in government) that that question apparently wasn’t asked before this became public last week. (As taxpayers know, the city is less fiscally conservative than city officials like to think.) Southwest Health is a nonprofit, but any organization must bring in more revenue than it spends. 

That letter also asks whether Platteville really needs paramedic-level service, which is another good question given that the closest paramedic service in Wisconsin is in metro Madison and La Crosse. (Dubuque’s Paramount Ambulance Service has paramedics, but they’re seen in this area only for patient transfers. Paramount’s website claims it is “partnering with communities,” a list that includes “Plateville.”) Unless Paramount proposes to build a facility in Platteville, the choice seems to be the current Platteville EMS or Southwest Health’s EMS service.

Southwest Health has recently been aggressive in expansion, both in building and in services offered. This question comes to mind, though: What if Southwest Health’s next CEO, or future members of Southwest Health’s board, decides Southwest Health shouldn’t be in the ambulance business? That could put the city in the position of having to build its own EMS garage and pay for ambulances and equipment after paying Southwest Health for all that for two decades.

I’d say that the next couple of weeks in which these issues will be decided will be interesting, but there’s never a non-interesting day in Platteville.