More time needed to fix EMS finances

Published 7:52 am Thursday, June 4, 2015

NW0604 Financial Management

The Carter County Finance Committee agreed to help facilitate a meeting with several local leaders to discuss the funding needs of the Carter County Rescue Squad.

The rescue squad asked for additional funding this year from both the county and city governments to help make up for a funding shortfall in the agency.

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For this fiscal year, the Rescue Squad is requesting $387,000 in additional funding from the county and an increase of $100,000 in funding from the city – money they say is necessary to continue operations.

Currently, the Carter County Rescue Squad receives $170,000 annually from the Carter County Commission and $20,000 annually from the City of Elizabethton. During the budget discussion, City Council agreed to set aside $100,000 for the rescue squad that could be allocated, depending on the level of funding given by the county.

After receiving the request for additional funding, the county commission asked the University of Tennessee’s County Technical Advisory Service to complete a study on the operations at the rescue squad.

The report, completed by Mark Foulks, fire and emergency services management consultant for the University of Tennessee service, questioned the need for more funding and said “there appears to be opportunities for the Carter County Emergency and Rescue Squad to implement significant operational and budget efficiencies.”

Rescue Squad Director Terry Arnold disputed some of the findings and questioned the accuracy of the report. He said that at no time did Foulks contact the EMS for information for the report, and added the report made it look like he could not manage the rescue squad.

He added that since CTAS issued the original report, and the county and rescue squad responded, a rebuttal has been received from CTAS, where Foulks admits to making mistakes, commissioner Danny Ward said.

In the rebuttal, Foulks acknowledges he did not contact the rescue squad, but used public documents to formulate the report. He explained he did it that way because of the time constraints placed on him by the budget committee.

“I feel he should have contacted the rescue squad, because in the rebuttal, CTAS admitted to having made mistakes,” Ward said.

Arnold said he had tried to get in touch with someone at CTAS about the report but could not make contact.

Chairman Ray Lyons suggested the rescue squad go back to the budget committee to get help with the rebuttal.

“Everyone knows the importance of having a rescue squad,” Lyons said. “Everyone wants to try to help.”

He continued that while there was no question the rescue squad was trying to do what was ethically right in treating the patients, the agency’s financial needs were a big concern. He said the CTAS report and rebuttal were “fluid” and that the financial management committee should help facilitate a meeting to get the agency back on “solid ground.”

Director of Carter County Schools Kevin Ward questioned the funding level from the city to the rescue squad.

“That seems awful low,” he said.

Arnold told the committee he had been seeking an increase for years but had been unsuccessful in gaining one.

Based on population, the city should be contributing between $40,000 and $42,000, Commissioner Charles VonCannon said.

“This is a continuous battle,” he said. “I hate coming back here every year.”

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey suggested having CTAS come in for a workshop with the county to discuss the report on the rescue squad. Kevin Ward asked the city be included in the meeting as well.

“This is a partnership,” Ward said. “This is not just a county problem; it is a city problem too.”

Humphrey volunteered to facilitate the meeting and arrange a time for all parties to attend. VonCannon made the motion to have the mayor arrange the meeting, which was seconded by Bobbie Gouge-Dietz. The motion was unanimously approved.