SUNSET -- There were so many people at Tuesday night's Sunset City Council meeting that the fire code was nearly broken. Good thing most of the fire department was part of the crowd.
In a meeting full of heated and emotional comments from Mayor Chad Bangerter, city council members, firefighters and residents, the council unanimously voted to pursue an ambulance license for the city.
"We will proceed with it, make it work in the budget and hopefully it works out," Bangerter said. "I hope my council is right."
The vote means the city's fire department, made up of volunteer firefighters, will need to have 35 firemen -- nine more than currently on staff. The decision also dismissed the idea of contracting with nearby cities to provide fire services, which would have eliminated the Sunset Fire Department.
While he did not have a vote, Bangerter had suggested he was against adding the ambulance and interested in getting rid of the fire department. That upset several residents, who voiced their opinions during the public comment portion of the meeting.
But there were also several residents who said Sunset did not need an ambulance, and in these tough financial times it might be a good idea to cut costs by cutting the fire department.
Sunset is a half-mile wide and two miles long and there are three fire departments that currently provide ambulance service to the city, all from within about two miles from the center of Sunset.
Bangerter said the city has recently began functioning on a much smaller budget. Because of that, the city has already turned a full-time secretary at the police department into a part-time worker and tried to do the same with the city's recreation director; however, that employee quit.
While the city's fire department is made up of volunteer firefighters, there are certain situations in which the volunteers get small payments. However, only two firefighters get paid per 12-hour shift.
"So the budget stays the same (with more firefighters) because (the department) is paid by shifts," councilman Ryan Furniss said during Tuesday's meeting.
The city does pay for the maintenance and licensing of the fire department's vehicles.
One of many ways the city could save money, Bangerter said, is by contracting out fire services. The council discussed the matter before voting on the ambulance, and all five were against the idea.
"I saw this as a slap in the face, that we would get rid of our fire department," said councilman Brent Andrews.
Instead, the fire department is getting bigger.
"I'm elated that we'll be able to give the ambulance service a try," said Fire Chief Neil Coker. "But there is still a lot of work to do. We need to apply for an ambulance license."
Coker said last year Clinton's ambulance service responded to 298 calls in Sunset. On 190 of those calls they transported a person to the hospital, for which they billed $193,182.11. They collected $104,318.34.
The fire department made a conservative estimate of $70,000 expected revenue from the ambulance service and expenses of $35,000 per year. Because of those numbers, Coker feels like an ambulance service will be profitable.
"With the way we have it proposed, if everything fits into place, yes," Coker said.
The issue started when the firefighters used their association funds to purchase the ambulance and donated the vehicle to the city. That forced the city to decide if it could afford an ambulance.
Furniss said he was in favor of the ambulance service because it helped the city in two key areas.
"Now we'll be able to provide better quality care with a quicker response time and get revenue," Furniss said. "Plus, one more ambulance in Davis County is only helping the citizens."