In Sept. 16 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
County leaders unanimously voted once again to give money to the tune of $45,000 to the financially struggling EMS to meet its upcoming payroll and other obligations after a lengthy discussion at Monday night's fiscal court meeting. It was the second time since May the fiscal court has come to the aid of the EMS.
The much talked about120-day deadline is set for October 18. At that time the Ambulance Board plans to stop funding the local 911 Dispatch service, something it has done for more than a year now.
The EMS Board of Directors voted back in the summer to opt out of the interlocal agreement which governed 911 operations; that is when the 120-day window began.
"We can't keep putting it off," said County Judge Executive Mickey Garner. "It is going to fall in somebody's lap. You're all going to let time run out and then what are you going to do?"
James Gray, chairman of the ambulance board, told the court that his board hadn't heard back from the audit company in three weeks.
"We assume that means they've got all the information they need," he said. "They're doing two fiscal year audits and they told us it would take two to three months to get the final results."
He did say preliminary reports from the company didn't show any major discrepancies. Gray told the court that EMS had $29,312 worth of August bills that needed to paid, $25,000 for payroll, $10,000 for their state retirement payment and their quarterly tax payment of $5,000.
"That's a total of $69,322 right now," Gray said. "As of today we have $24,185 in the bank. That leaves us $45,127 short."
Troy Walters, who resigned his position as temporary interim director of the Russell County Ambulance Service on Friday, told the court there was more money going out than coming in and the only solution without their financial help was to lay people off and cut services.
Magistrate Ronald Johnson, a member of the court for eight years, said he would like to see the two cities, the fiscal court and the ambulance service fund the 911 service like was done before the interlocal agreement.
"That's the only way it is ever going to work," he said. "If you're going to turn it back over to the county in five weeks, we won't have the money to pay (for) it."
Johnson said higher tax rates and a surcharge on phone bills would be two ways the county would have to go about funding the service.
"Unless we come to a joint effort and do something on it I don't see how we're going to run it," he said.
Magistrate Jimmy McQueary echoed Johnson's sentiments.
"We need the service," he said. "We didn't have any trouble before we split up so I think we could run it without any problem."
Mayors Hollis DeHart of Russell Springs and Brooks Bates of Jamestown also spoke at the meeting.
"I come down here with no clear direction as to what to tell you as far as finances are concerned," DeHart said. He said a consensus among Russell Springs council members was something needs to be done soon but not without first setting down with the audit and the service's bills and extensively researching the documents.
"If we want a Cadillac system, we'll have to pay a Cadillac price," DeHart said. "We'll be happy to sit down with you at any time … we know we have to have the system."
He said the proposed figured of $50,000 from each entity to fund the service would be a substantial amount from the Russell Springs' budget.
Jamestown Mayor Brooks Bates maintained his position that dispatch is a county responsibility and always should have been.
"We've got a meeting Thursday night and you all can have a delegate there to advocate for this but I don't think it will fly," he said.
Magistrate Gary Robertson said the ambulance tax would no longer being paying for dispatch come the October 18 deadline.
James Faller was also present and spoke at the meeting. Faller has filed a lawsuit against EMS and dispatch in hopes of remedying the problem, he said.
Faller said he believes there has been some mismanagement at EMS and that he would like to see the state police take over dispatching responsibilities locally.
"Unless something is done to investigate what has really gone on here we're going to have a much bigger problem in a couple of months," he said. "Yes I have filed a suit and that allows me to bring a judge into this matter that can make decisions and become captain of the ship and not just argue back and forth."
Last month the court was told that the cost to move Russell County Emergency 911 Dispatch Services to the Kentucky State Police Post in Columbia would be $93,000 to $95,000 as a one-time fee and $132,000 a year.
State police representatives have let Garner know that they have 30 days to let them know, one way or another, whether the county wants the Columbia Post to take over dispatch duties.
In other happenings at the meeting:
• Solid Waste Coordinator H.M. Bottom said the county had received a $5,000 PRIDE grant to continue with October's Free Dump day, tentatively scheduled for Oct. 20.
• Russell County Tourist Commission Director of Marketing John Carter asked the court for an $850 ad placement in the Russell County Tourism's 201l brochure, which are submitted to approximately 50,000 folks each year through boat and travel shows.
With no apparent direction, the court decided to table the request for a month and revisit purchasing an ad at October's meeting.
"If money is tight you can also consider going down in size, not quality," Carter told the court.
• The court also decided not to collectively donate to the Russell Register's Newspapers in Education program, rather telling that paper's general manager that they would donate as individuals if they chose to do so.
• Magistrates heard and accepted the jail report. The daily average at the Russell County Jail was 49 with a total income $1,527.37.
• The court transferred $50,000 from the general fund to the jail fund and $183,000 from the road fund to the general fund.
• Garner announced that work on the new detention center is progressing and is scheduled to be completed in early December.