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Mitchell EMS replacing two ambulance chassis with new gas-powered frames, moving away from diesel

The Mitchell City Council approved the $300,000 purchase that will replace a pair of ambulances aging chassis

AMBULANCE.jpg
Shown here is one of the Mitchell EMS division's ambulances that has a gas-powered chassis. With the Mitchell City Council's approval for the EMS division to purchase two new chassis, two more of Mitchell's diesel-powered ambulances will be replaced with gas-powered chassis.
Mitchell Republic file photo

MITCHELL — A pair of Mitchell’s ambulances will be switching from diesel-power to gas.

After years of aging and wear and tear, Marius Laursen, chief of Mitchell Fire Division and EMS, said the diesel chassis that power two of the city’s ambulances are in need of replacement. To cut down on future maintainance costs, Laursen is seeking to swap out the aging diesel chassis with new gas-powered models.

And due to the rising costs of maintenance repairs needed to keep the ambulances with chassis running, Laursen's pitch to purchase two gas-powered chassis at roughly $300,000 was approved Monday by the Mitchell City Council.

“It's getting expensive to maintain these. It just makes more sense to do this," Laursen said of the chassis during Monday’s Mitchell City Council meeting. “My pitch is for gas and getting rid of the diesel system, which is a lot of what other people are doing right now.”

As for what’s behind the switch from diesel to gas-powered ambulances, Laursen said the air filters on both of the ambulances with aging chassis are filling up fast and causing more costly maintenance.

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“Currently, there is a filter in the ambulances we have that is filing faster than they should. Now I have to replace those,” Laursen said, noting one filter replacement recently cost the city about $7,000.

Laursen said switching to gas-powered ambulances has become a growing trend for many emergency service divisions across the country, noting a large EMS division in Minnesota recently replaced roughly 120 of its diesel chassis with gas-powered chassis.

He said the gas-powered chassis would also allow the two ambulances to implement a “liquid spring” system, which is the suspension system of the vehicles.

“It’s the new thing. We have one ambulance that currently has the liquid spring in it, and it’s a dream,” he said. “It’s even better than the air ride.”

During Monday’s council meeting, Laursen fielded a question on the condition of the ambulance cabs, which are the box-shaped portions of the ambulances that are equipped with medical devices for emergency passengers in need of medical attention. He said the cabs on the two ambulances that will undergo new chassis are in great condition.

“The boxes are in really great shape, so we can replace the boxes onto the new chassis,” Laursen said.

Although the cost of replacing the chassis is high, Laursen indicated the purchase of both chassis would upgrade two ambulance vehicles for the cost of one.

City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein gave a nod of support for the purchase of two chassis, pointing to the deal of getting “two for the price of one” as a smart investment.

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“We talked about looking at any funds that were unexpended in 2021 and roll those forward with this purchase in 2023,” she said. “It makes sense, financially.”

While the council approved purchasing the chassis, Laursen said the new Ford F-450 ambulance frames would likely arrive in 2023.

Laursen said the city’s EMS department will receive loaner ambulances until each cab is mounted on the new chassis.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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