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TRAA gets funding help from City of Fort Wayne

Three Rivers Ambulance Authority Executive Director Joel Benz presents funding proposal to Fort Wayne City Council
Tony Sandleben
Three Rivers Ambulance Authority Executive Director Joel Benz presents funding proposal to Fort Wayne City Council

The Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, or TRAA, has been working with elected officials on getting help funding its payroll.

The city's ambulance service gave large pay raises across the board last year to retain staff after moving on from its management contractor and going under independent control.

Tuesday night it cleared the first hurdle toward getting that help by making a deal with the Fort Wayne City Council.

TRAA Executive Director Joel Benz said after Tuesday night’s council meeting that the future looks a little brighter.

“We sort of start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit with this one,” Benz said. “So, that’s really exciting because we needed this funding in order to continue to operate.”

TRAA came to the Fort Wayne City Council asking for $3 million in funding help.

Officials called it a “worst case scenario ask,” meaning they’d only need all of it if other funding sources fell through.

TRAA officials hope the Allen County Council will help with an additional $800,000, but Councilman Russ Jehl (R, 2nd district) pointed out that if the county does not provide that money, the City of Fort Wayne would be paying for services in Grabill, New Haven and other areas outside of the city.

Jehl proposed an amendment that called for the money to be sent to TRAA in three, monthly $1-million increments.

If, after the first month, TRAA has still not gotten any help from the County Council, Jehl’s amendment gives the Fort Wayne City Council the option to “take the tourniquet off” and not send TRAA the rest of the money, but Councilman Jason Arp (R, 4th) said after the meeting that he wasn’t worried.

“If we do bring it back, I expect we’ll fully fund it,” Arp said.

TRAA is also hoping more Medicaid funding from the Indiana Statehouse will help shave some money off what it’s asking from the Fort Wayne City Council. Jehl’s amendment passed 6 to 3 while the amended proposal passed unanimously.

The deal also calls for TRAA to provide monthly cash flow reports to Fort Wayne City Controller Gary Moore who will then determine how much TRAA needs of the two million dollars after the first month. Moore will also make that call after the second month.

When asked after the meeting what will keep TRAA from being back asking the City of Fort Wayne for money a year from now, Executive Director Benz said the money TRAA is getting now will help stop the bleeding enough until TRAA can put together a permanent solution.

He expects TRAA to be at a “more manageable loss” in 2024 and to be in the black by 2025.

Moore said the money will come from two different city funds, with $2 million from the general fund, while the other $1 million will come from the fire ancillary fund.

Council will meet on April 11 to allocate the funds.

Tony Sandleben joined the WBOI News team in September of 2022.