In June 10 IssueBy Greg WellsTimes Journal Managing Editor
At a special called meeting, the fiscal court did not choose any new board members for the Russell County Ambulance Board.
“We need a board,” said the service's attorney, Athena Cooper.
The members of the court were told that board action was needed to prevent the 911-dispatch center from loosing access to the National Crime Information Computer system. They were also told that the ambulance service has been notified that they are on probation and have been accessed a $1,500 fine.
It also came out during the meeting that the service was to undergo a state audit.
Cooper said she in discussing that situation with state regulators, and explained that the fine and probation resulted from the state investigation of allegations that a non-certified individual drove on ambulance runs last year. That person was the service's director, Joe Flanagan.
Flanagan was brought up by Magistrate Steve Bledsoe.
“Do we have an adviser at the ambulance service,” he asked.
He was speaking of an $11,500 a year, plus full benefits, position the board moved Flanagan to after he resigned from the position of director.
Steve Bunch, who has been serving on the board, said the decision had been made a previous meeting of the board, but was to be reconsidered as soon as the board was re-constituted.
He said no one who had been on the board understood when or if their terms had expired.
“Who was supposed to let us know when our terms were up,” Bunch asked the board.
Mickey Garner, the out-going judge-executive, said the term for David Withers had expired. The un-expired terms Bunch and Mike Popplewell had been appointed to were over as well.
As the meeting was drawing to a close Assistant County Attorney Jeff Loy explained that according to the county's administrative code only those individuals approved unanimously could be placed on a board during the meeting at which they are nominated.
With the only unanimous vote being a “No,” by all magistrates on the nomination of David Withers, none of the present board was returned to their seats.
A meeting was tentatively set for 5 p.m. this Thursday to address the appointments again.
In addition to the fines and Flannagan's status, among the other points addressed by the court wereŚ
How did the service go from being debt free and having over $100,000 in the bank to having to repeatedly borrow to make payroll? The cost of operating dispatch was blamed.
Why was the service was paying almost twice what the rest of the county was for health insurance? A change in insurance providers was agreed to.
Why had the director not been terminated when he failed to meet the certification requirements placed on him when he was hired? No answer.
When did it become clear there were financial problems? Late last summer.
How much time is the full-time mapping director spending on mapping and addressing? Few days a week.
Garner told the court that he has discussed moving the county's police, fire, rescue and ambulance dispatching to the state police post. He said the cost for the first would be between $140,000 and $160,000 yearly, plus a one-time fee of $4,000 per dispatch frequency for the county and cities.
He said that the board, when re-constituted, would service notice of dissolving the inter-local agreement that put the dispatch services under that board.
“They're gonna give it back to us,” Garner told the court.