Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Sept. 10, 2001

State wants to know who has ambulance's checkbook

By Lynda Jensen

Several frustrated members of the Howard Lake Ambulance Service attended the Howard Lake City Council meeting Tuesday to discuss its checkbook.

The checkbook for the ambulance service has been a source of contention for several years, starting in 1998 when a concerned citizen contacted the state about it, City Clerk Gene Gilbert said.

The state recently called again, to close its case file - causing the issue to re-surface, Gilbert said.

The ambulance service has a checkbook; although the checks must be signed by the mayor, city clerk, and ambulance treasurer. This has been done faithfully over time, Gilbert said.

No money is unaccounted for, and no checks have been written that were improper, Gilbert said.

In fact, the ambulance service operates a virtual non-profit organization, giving prompt service at a cost that the city could not find anywhere else, she said.

However, at issue is the possession of the checkbook - which is in the hands of the ambulance treasurer, she said.

"They don't want it in your possession," Administrator Doug Borglund said, referring to the state. "They'll turn this place upside down," he said - saying that the state would make an investigation over the issue.

Ambulance members expressed frustration that the issue was brought up again, since they thought it was resolved in 1998, according to a letter from the state of Minnesota.

"I don't know how you perceive that we have control over that money," ambulance member Steve Halverson said. "You have more control of it than we do."

The checks must be signed by the mayor, clerk, and ambulance treasurer; otherwise they are worthless, Halverson pointed out.

Currently, members of the service donate time to reconcile financial statements and balance the checkbook. Revenue is also billed and collected by the ambulance service into this account.

"We're putting in a whole lot of free time," Denny Bobrowske said.

If the city was going to take the checkbook, it should also shoulder the responsibility for the ambulance's billing as well, Halverson said, since the ambulance service still had access to incoming checks, he said.

"Internal control is not strengthened one iota," Halverson said, citing his personal experience as an auditor.

This would add considerable cost and time to city staff, Halverson said.

This was acknowledged. "We could not do what they are doing," Gilbert said.

The ambulance is already satisfying the law, Halverson added.

It was decided to set up a meeting with ambulance service members, representatives from the city, and the state special investigator Terrilyn Diamond, who was the one to contact the city; to form a solution.

No one from the city, nor any council member, contacted the state both times that the issue cropped up, Gilbert said.

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