KCUR News
1:46 am
Fri September 10, 2010

MAST Defended; Pension Upgrade on Hold

Kansas City, MO – A plan to give MAST ambulance employees better retirement benefits is on hold for at least another two weeks after four council members blocked a quick vote on it Thursday.

The non-profit MAST ambulance service became part of the Fire Department this spring. And the plan finally proposed offered full retirement benefits and credit for previous years of service.

The city manager said funding that could cost up to $40 million dollars that could be paid in over ten or more years and in the long run offset by savings.

A committee advanced the measure for an accelerated vote. But the Northland's Ed Ford questioned the lack of information about MAST finances and said the plan could prompt an epidemic of retirements in 18 months, to which District 5's Terry Riley added concerns that, "The federal government is mandating that cities deal with their pension funds right now. The city is already "upside down" as relates to our pension fund."

An accelerated vote required nine votes. It got seven. The MAST pension plan is back in committee for at lest two more weeks.

Earlier in the day, Kansas City, Missouri fire chief Smokey Dyer defended ambulance response times in the Northland before a special council committee

The latest figures say 30 percent of ambulance calls in their part of town don't make the 9-minute response goal. That compares with 20 percent or less in other parts of the city.

But Dyer says that isn't a problem. "This is one of the best-served cities in emergency medical care of America's 100 largest cities," he said, "and we seem to be focusing that we have a problem. And it's my contention that we do not have a problem... that we should be celebrating."

Dyer says MAST ambulances don't miss the nine-minute goal by much in those 30 percent of Northland calls, and fire trucks with fully equipped EMTs get there before the ambulance... in six minutes or less.

Northland council members still want response parity with other parts of the city.