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Sparta Area Ambulance

Written by Robert Hess

The ambulance service was founded in 1973 after a period of confusion and disorganization. The private ambulance operator was losing money and concerned about new state ambulance regulations, he sold his business to another individual who was unable to provide reliable service.

Eventually the City of Sparta repossessed a new ambulance, which had been purchased with Highway Safety funds, and placed it at the City of Sparta Fire-Police Station. The private operator soon went out of business and the City of Sparta found it's on-duty police officers forced to answer ambulance calls outside of the city limits.

The City Fire Department expressed no interest in assuming the ambulance duties, and the townships were busy reorganizing the "Sparta Rural Fire Department."

The City of Sparta began staffing the ambulance with off-duty police officers and volunteers from the community. Emergency Medical Training was then started, and the City of Sparta began negotiations with representative's of the surrounding townships for financial support, in order to create a "Municipal Ambulance Department."

As time went on the ambulance workers became increasingly unhappy with the city's operation of the ambulance service. EMT training involved time and travel, they were expected to leave their jobs at a moment's notice, yet they received only a small fee for compensation. Meanwhile the City of Sparta seemed undecided as what to do, there was little support for a Municipal Ambulance Service and thus several groups of concerned citizens and individuals were suggesting other plans of operation.

Eventually the ambulance workers issued an ultimatum, unless pay was drastically increased they would all walk off the job on November 16, 1973. This was opening day of the Wisconsin Deer-Gun season. The City of Sparta had already been soliciting plans for operation and one of those plans submitted, was submitted by Robert and Linda Hess. Robert and Linda Hess were notified by the City of Sparta that their plan was accepted on condition that they be operational on November 16, 1973. Robert and Linda Hess accepted the offer by the City of Sparta and thus started what is called today, the Sparta Area Ambulance Service, Ltd.

Robert and Linda Hess quickly moved to Sparta and acquired temporary lodging with an old high school classmate of Linda's. As required by the City of Sparta, Robert and Linda Hess took possession of the ambulance at 6:00pm on November 16, 1973 and drove it across town to their apartment. Robert and Linda Hess slept on the floor of the apartment until a more permanent residence could be found.

The plan submitted by Robert and Linda Hess and accepted by the City of Sparta seemed simple... a joint Municipal - Private Ambulance Service, the Hess's would have a free hand in the day to day operation of the service, the city would provide the ambulance and equipment, and the ambulance service would be overseen by a committee composed of City and Township representatives who would provide the necessary support.

The plan looked good but a flaw became immediately obvious. The service had only one ambulance and the Hess's found themselves on duty for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no backup personnel. Most of the ambulance workers of the previous City Ambulance Service refused to work for the new service, and no money had been budgeted to purchase a backup ambulance.

Bob took his personal car to a local car dealer and traded it for a used station wagon. The Monroe County Traffic Police Department provided a used red light bar, the City of Sparta found an old police radio, and a cot was purchased from one of the previous ambulance service providers. Linda's old classmate and her husband took over as second call, a couple of the city police officers offered their assistance, and members of Bob's local National Guard Unit offered their support. Eventually an old ambulance was obtained through Army surplus and refurbished as a backup unit.

In October of 1974 the ambulance service was incorporated as the Sparta Area Ambulance Service, Ltd. This was done to limit the liability imposed upon Robert and Linda Hess and to separate business and personal interest's. In December 1974 the ambulance service had it's first real major trauma scene involving multiple vehicles and injuries. The two ambulance's and the Hess's station wagon were pressed into immediate service. The extrication, treatment, and transport of the injured was handled so well that the Monroe County Traffic Police discontinued their operation of station wagon ambulances and acknowledged their support for the newly formed, Sparta Area Ambulance Service, Ltd.

More townships and villages were quick to join the service area of the Sparta Area Ambulance Service, Ltd. The City of Sparta now became concerned that the rural area interests exceeded the city's interest. The problem of calls to non-member service area's surfaced while the repair and replacement of ambulance vehicles and equipment were the responsibility of the City of Sparta and this became an issue.

In 1977 the City of Sparta was looking for a way to obsolve itself of this ambulance service. Again, lack of support for a City owned ambulance service was lacking so the City of Sparta began accepting offer's of purchase for the service. Only two offers were made. One was from Tri-State Ambulance who offered to create a sub-station at Sparta for a determined set fee, payable by the City of Sparta. The other offer came from Robert and Linda Hess who offered to purchase the service and continue operation to the established service area. They requested only a small subsidy fee from the City of Sparta. The City of Sparta accepted the offer and turned the ownership of the service over to Robert and Linda Hess.

Today the Sparta Area Ambulance Service, Ltd. operates as an independent entity providing contract ambulance services to area communities and organizations. The service has the largest service population in Monroe County and has received commendations and awards from the State of Wisconsin Highway Safety Commission, Western Wisconsin Technical College, and the Hurst "Jaws of LifeŠ" Company.