In June 3 Issue
The Russell County Ambulance Service, its taxing-district board, and the 911-Dispatch Service financial problems have been brought out previously but as of last week the fiscal court “bailed out” the service with $33,000 to make the month's payroll. Last Friday, a special called meeting by the board was canceled after it came to light that two of the three board members’ terms had expired.
“I think it is time for the fiscal court to man up and do something about this,” said Republican County Judge-Executive nominee Ralph Creech. “I don't think we have the appropriate people in charge.”
Mickey Garner, the present judge-executive, has gone on record saying he will re-appoint the same people to the board.
David Withers, who has served one term on the board and has been acting as the director after the resignation of the previous director Beckham Wilson. Withers was appointed by Garner in 2007, and depending on who is asked, was legally off the board in either November of last year or January of this year.
Mike Poppelwell was appointed to fill Wilson's un-expired term, and in the words of Garner after the court had approved that action, “And I'm going to go ahead and appoint him to the regular term.”
A move that Democratic Judge-Executive nominee Gary Robertson says is not allowed under Kentucky Law.
Robertson, who serves as a magistrate now, did not raise such concerns at the time. When asked this week who he thought should be leading the board Robertson differed, “It is up to the county judge to recommend someone; the fiscal court just votes yes or no.”
He said he hasn't seen any financial reports from the ambulance service or the board which oversees it and the dispatch service.
“We're going to have a meeting Thursday night,” Robertson said.
He indicated he would expect answers then.
There have been back-channel requests for money from the cities to support the services. Under the previous agreement the cities, county and ambulance service had paid to support the dispatch services, but that changed when the ambulance service took over.
Russell Springs Mayor Hollis DeHart said, “The citizens of Russell Springs have the same responsibility to pay taxes as the people who live out in the county.”
He said it “is just not an option,” that the tax money the city collects for city services should be diverted to the taxing district which already collects money from city citizens and everyone else in the county.
“The fiscal court is responsible for the welfare and well-being of the citizens in this county,” DeHart said. “They are responsible for more than just cleaning out ditch lines and patching potholes. They needed to have been keeping a closer watch on that budget.”
He suggested that serious changes needed to be made and that the board and the court would have to face up to their responsibilities, set a tax rate that provides the services they are charged with providing.
Likewise, Jamestown Mayor Brooks Bates said, “Well I can't speak for the council, but I have talked with several of them about this and my feeling is we already pay taxes for this, (ambulance service).”
He said one EMT had said something about more calls for service coming from the cities. Bates said, “Well of course there are, that is where most of the taxpayers live.”
Bates also added that he felt the present administration of the service was apparently not up to the task of managing the funds, and so would best be replaced.
Both mayors and both judge executive candidates noted that there is at present no director for the ambulance service, and that the previous director had never become certified in the commonwealth and had been away from work for an extended period of time.
XXX Flanagan has been seriously ill and had been placed on medical leave by the board.
DeHart questioned that action, noting that federal rules established in the Family and Medical Leave Act specify that a worker would have to be on the job for 12 months before qualifying.
At least one member of the previous ambulance board has questioned why he had not been fired, since the board had specified a 6-month window for Flanagan to become certified and that has long since expired.
A special called meeting of the fiscal court is expected for Thursday night to address these issues, but it has not been announced, and Kentucky Law requires a minimum 24-hour notice of any such meeting.
At the last special called meeting the court had approved that $33,000 transfer to allow the service to meet payroll, Garner’s recommendation had been for $50,000.