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Budget boosts squad, spares CCT

There will be no need for a “third time’s a charm” effort after a second try at passing a first reading proved Photo by Brandon Hickssuccessful for Elizabethton’s 2014-2015 budget.
The first reading of the budget was approved at Thursday night’s meeting of the Elizabethton City Council on a 6-1 vote, with Bob Cable voting against it.
The Council failed to approve the budget last month when issues concerning funding for Carter County Tomorrow could not be settled. Cable’s attempt to remove the money Thursday night failed.
CCT funding remained in place, and the approved budget also includes more money for the Carter County Rescue Squad.
Councilman Sam Shipley moved the budget be amended to raise the Rescue Squad’s funding by $17,500, bringing the squad’s appropriation to $20,000 from $2,500. Shipley said the extra funds would come from a decrease in the city’s insurance costs.
Cable questioned the increase, saying the squad had asked for a contract to be the sole emergency rescue service provider in the city, which would in turn mean they would have better borrowing power and would not need additional funding.
CCRS Director Terry Arnold said that Cable’s statement was true, and that although the rescue squad needed the extra money, he hadn’t made the request for the additional funding.
Shipley and council member, Nancy Alsup, both CCRS board members, said they wanted the extra funding for the rescue squad. Shipley said the squad was receiving less revenue because of unpaid bills and a reduction in funds from government, insurance providers and individual patients.
Arnold said the funding was badly needed and that the CCRS had taken a big hit from the Affordable Care Act. He said once the ACA was fully in effect, the impact on the rescue squad, and other health care providers, would be even worse.
“Obamacare has taken us down,” Arnold said. “We took some hits. We have made budget twice this year, and I don’t think we will make it again. We are on the downside and it is not looking good in the future for the rescue squad. You can’t run a multi-million operation on shoestring budget.”
Alsup said she was in favor of giving the CCRS all of the additional funding available after their response to her recent health scare. She said she incoherent when taken from her home and transferred to Johnson City Medical Center. She said without the rescue squad’s response, it was likely she would have died in her home before someone found her.
“They are there when you need them,” she said. “You don’t know how much until you have to call them.”
The amendment to add more funding for the rescue squad was unanimously approved.
Cable then made a motion to remove all funding for CCT from the budget. The city provides $45,000 each year from the Elizabethton Electric Department and $49,000 from the water/sewer department for CCT.
Cable said he was asking to remove the funding because he was not seeing results from the agency.
“It is nothing personal,” Cable said. “I am not seeing results. I am not saying they are not going out there trying to get anything. I am saying there is nothing out there to get.”
He continued that there was city staff who is trained and able to do the job of the CCT director who could take over the recruitment efforts.
Cable’s motion failed for a lack of second and there was no further discussion on the removal of funding for CCT.
Council also approved by a 5-2 vote extending the city’s medical insurance coverage to the employees of the Watauga River Regional Water Authority.
Alsup and Shipley voted against the motion.
Mayor Curt Alexander said the WRRWA made the request because joining in with a larger group would save the agency close to $30,000 each year. He said they would pay all the costs of their health insurance coverage and would not bring any additional costs to the city. The WRRWA has approximately seven employees.
“Lowering their costs means that the extra will not be passed on to their customers,” Alexander said. “If they have to pay that increase for health insurance, then they will have to make it up some way.”
Alsup questioned if the city was a customer of the WRRWA and said he felt the authority should get their own health care.
Shipley said he was concerned that by adding a group not employed by the city, or who worked with a city agency, would open the door to additional groups asking to be added to the city’s insurance policy.
Jeff Treadway said he believed it was a good option to help provide water service to the county, which is a tool for industrial development.
“I see nothing wrong with cooperating to have that resource available,”
Council also approved adding two stone markers at the Veterans Monument. One is a reproduction of a marker that was originally at the Monument. The other commemorates the 100th anniversary of the veteran’s memorial.