The City of Conway will see some needed savings in its Fire Department budget due to legislation and "good management."

More than $51,800 that was designated to support MEMS, the nonprofit ambulance service based out of Little Rock, may be used elsewhere.

Fire Chief Bart Castleberry said that he hopes the Conway City Council will approve a transfer of the "freed-up" funds so that repairs may be made to standard equipment such as fire trucks, or so that stations and radios may be upgraded.

The savings are a result of late legislation in December that temporarily reinstated Medicare reimbursements, the primary subsidy on which the ambulance service relies.

Jon Swanson, MEMS executive director, said the formula for subsidy requests was recalculated for the City of Conway and for Faulkner County. 

The projected need, $91,500, based on what was to be lower Medicare reimbursement rates and projected run volume for the area, was reduced to $39,662.

"I’m not calling it a surplus, but hopefully we will be allowed to move it in to areas where we need it, such as for maintenance," Castleberry said. "I’ve got some places we can use it in our budget and in just our day-to-day operational expenses."

Sandy Brewer, Conway’s representative on the MEMS Board of Directors, said that service seeks to "break even" rather than make profit.

"In order for MEMS to break even in the city and the county, they have to have subsidizing for them to stay here," Brewer said. "The original projection was quite an appropriate budget number because last year the cost of runs and to keep the facility running was around $90,000."

Swanson said that the reinstatement of Medicare reimbursements for ambulance use is temporary, and MEMS will "face uncertain circumstances in 2012."

"We don’t know what will happen with these rates. We’re happy that we’re able to drive these charges down, and we hope that we can continue to do so," Swanson said.

Faulkner County’s expense was also reduced, according to Swanson, from about $55,000 to the current subsidy payment of about $9,500.

"We’re very happy to be afforded the opportunity to provide services to the City of Conway and the county as a whole. We appreciate the partnership and relationship with the community, and we do our best to provide the best service we can in the most affordable way," said Swanson.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)