Ambulance Authority Meets to Present Balanced Budget

Voting to Determine Fate of Station 2

Following an unproductive emergency meeting between the Tucker County Commission and the Ambulance Authority, at which nothing was resolved, the Ambulance Authority Board met on Monday, July 01, 2013, to discuss the fate of Station 2 and to present a budget for approval.{{more}}
Larry Armbruster presented the board with a budget that included a 40 cent per hour raise for employees and allotted the funds required to increase the hours at Station 2 (Cortland Acres) – Station 3 (Canaan Valley) from eight hours per day seven days a week to 12 hours per day seven days a week. At this time the board appeared to be caught off-guard when informed that Station 2 – 3 was only being staffed five days a week, due to a lack of personnel. The board asked that the hiring of additional personal be added to the agenda of the next meeting.

With regards to the budget. Armbruster stated that some cuts were made and this budget contains the additional $40,000 offered by the county commission to fund the additional hours for three months and accepting the commission’s offer of hiring a consultant to see if additional cuts or funding could be found.

Kathy Kalar asked “Does this budget include pay raises? I think it would be more important to keep Station 2 open than do pay raises. I think pay raises are important, but I think keeping Station 2 open is really quite important.”
Stan Dragovich stated, “I’m all in favor of pay raises, because these people haven’t had a raise in three to four years. We have to take care of the people we have or we aren’t going to have anybody.” Armbruster stated, “We can’t vote on pay raises tonight because it isn’t on the agenda and no provision is made for old business. We can meet again after we hear from the County Commission. I said when we tabled the raises the other day that the only way I would vote to table was if the raises were made retroactive to July 1, 2013.
Once again, Kalar asked, “Does this budget include the raises?” Armbruster and Bobby Phillips responded with a yes. Kalar said “So what we could do is pass this budget and see if the County Commission is going to fund it, and then, if they say no, we’re not going to give you that much money, we could make cuts.” Armbruster informed the board that one place he knew they could make cuts would be on the utilities at Station 2. “If this station were closed, we could save $10,000 to $15,000 a year.” said Armbruster.

Members discussed possible ways of increasing revenue including asking Canaan Valley Resorts and Timberline to add $1 to each lift ticket for EMS and sending a letter to every household in the county asking for a $2 a month donation to EMS for a total of $24 per year. These ideas were presented to decrease the ambulance authority’s dependence on projected ambulance fee collections and the hotel/motel tax. This year the County Commission has stated it will be giving the Ambulance Authority $75,000 of the Hotel/Motel tax. At this time, it was made known that the Tucker County Commission had passed a resolution in 2007, signed by then commissioner Chris Michael resolving that the Hotel/Motel tax would be split as follows: 50% to the Tucker County Visitors Bureau; 25% to EMS; with the remaining 25% being split between the four county fire departments. There seemed to be some question as to how the tax is being split and if the resolution had been changed. Questions were also raised about how the disbursing of the 911 charges on telephone bills is done.

Armbruster told the board that he had heard from Cortland Acres and that they were willing to discontinue the rent on Station 2 for a period of six months. This would save $3,000 for this year. And some saving could be seen on the insurance payments. The budget will also include a $7,000 decrease in funding for maintenance. After some additional discussion on the budget the board voted unanimously to pass it, with the provision that it be reviewed on or before October 1, 2013. They will present it to the Tucker County Commission at the commission’s next meeting on July 10, 2013.
Emotions ran high as the discussion turned to closing Station 2. Board member Paula Currance said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea, even though it is costing us a lot of money.” Bobby Phillips said, “I agree with Paula, for the simple reason that the respsonse times from Station 3 (Canaan Valley) would be 10 – 15 minutes just to Thomas, and this is in good weather. In inclement weather, God only knows. I can’t answer that question. You know, a statement was made that we have first class citizens in Parsons and second and third class citizens on the mountain. I heard this on Friday morning. Well, we are all first class citizens in Tucker County, so we’re going to provide the service no matter where it’s at!” Stan Dragovich said, “Let’s wait until we have that consultant in and see what they might find.” Armbruster stated that he had heard of instances where an ambulance had not been available. He then asked, “ How much is the health or the lives of our citizens worth? A lot more than a few thousand dollars in my book.”

As a result of these comments, the board declined to take any action on closing Station 2. They will possibly revisit this item in three months, after the consultant the County Commission has agreed to provide has looked at the overall operation of the Authority Board and made any recommendations.

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