Six of the seven members of a task force created to explore a fire department-run ambulance service were appointed by the Superior City Council on Tuesday night.
The seventh member - a Gold Cross employee residing in Superior or Douglas County - has yet to be identified.
Mayor Dave Ross and Council President Dan Olson said they were given the name of an individual who could serve on the panel from Gold Cross, but they rejected the candidate because the employee lives in Duluth.
Councilor Ed Anderson said he didn't see where the residency of the Gold Cross employee mattered because they would be able to represent the company's point of view irrespective of where they live. However, the council took no action to change the membership.
Anderson and Councilor Greg Mertzig, who introduced the proposal to the council, questioned the reasoning and appropriateness of appointing a Gold Cross employee.
"When the original proposal came forward it said unbiased ... if they're fighting for their job, they're going to be biased," said Mertzig.
Olson said it makes sense to have someone who is providing the service currently on the committee to provide information for the fact-finding task force.
Ross said membership on the fact-finding panel was given careful consideration.
Since 2004, when the city faced a nearly half-million-dollar cut in state shared revenue, Ross said he's been approached by city fire chiefs about the idea of operating its own ambulance service as a means of generating revenue. Ross doesn't deny that he's opposed to a city-run service that could put taxpayers on the hook for users who don't pay for the service. Currently, the city has no liability for unpaid ambulance service, and it doesn't make sense that the city take on the increased liability, he said.
"I agree with [the council's] thought that we should at least take a look at it and either put this thing to rest, or do something," Ross said. He said he met with Olson so the two could work together to put together a task force the council could approve. He said the goal was to create a task force that would provide a balance.
Members appointed to the new task force include Councilor Warren Bender, Steve Panger of the Superior Fire Department, rural Supervisor Kay Johnson and city Supervisor Jack Sweeney of the Douglas County Board, Dr. Robert Sellers for his medical experience and Finance Director Jean Vito.
The seventh member of the panel could be appointed in two weeks.
Councilor Bob Finsland said most of the committee appointees approved Tuesday night are city residents and he believed they would do a good job when exploring the facts surrounding the operation of the city-run ambulance service.
"I think they're going to do a fine job for us," Finsland said. "I certainly respect their opinions."