$160,000 Rescue Squad bailout approved by Commission, but conditions must be met
Published 10:21 am Tuesday, August 18, 2015
The Carter County Commission approved a one-time bailout of $160,000 for the Carter County Rescue Squad, but the funds will come with some strings attached.
After a lengthy debate, the Commission voted 21-3 to approve the additional funds with the stipulations that the Roan Mountain and Hampton substations remain open, a joint task force be formed to look for a permanent funding solution and that a written contact be created detailing the agreement.
Monday’s meeting began much as many recent meetings of the county’s governing body have as citizens attending the meeting voiced their concerns over the proposed closure of the Roan Mountain and Hampton Rescue Squad substations. Some pleaded for the Commission to approve additional funds while others called for a deeper look into Rescue Squad finances.
The bailout proposal came to the floor when Budget Committee Chairwoman Sonja Culler made a motion to approve the one-time fund allocation with the stipulations of forming the committee and keeping the substations open. The motion received a second by Commissioner Robert Acuff and was later amended by Culler and Acuff to include the provision requiring a written contract after Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey and members of the Commission voiced concerns as to whether the Rescue Squad would keep the promise to leave the substations open.
Culler noted the amount of community response seen in recent meetings and the fact the Rescue Squad agreed to the proposal in front of a large crowd during last week’s budget committee meeting.
“They are going to be facing these citizens if they back out now,” Culler said.
However, not all shared her optimism that no contract would be necessary.
“We need something in writing and we need to hold their feet to the fire,” Commissioner Nancy Brown of Roan Mountain said.
In addition to discussion on requiring a written contract for the additional funding, Humphrey reiterated statements he made during previous meetings that the Rescue Squad is two years into a four-year contract with the county to provide emergency services. Under the terms of that contract, the Rescue Squad agreed to provide services for a $170,000 contribution from the county, Humphrey said.
But, some members of the Commission questioned whether such a contract exists. Commissioner Mike Hill said he had requested a copy from Humphrey and was never provided with one. Humphrey replied that minutes from meetings over the years as well as video recordings show the Commission approving the contract.
While there are meeting minutes to show the Commission approved entering the contract, County Attorney Josh Hardin said there is nothing on paper.
“There is a draft version of a contract and a series of communications between the EMS attorney and the former county attorney, but, as far as a signed and final contract there is not one,” Hardin said.
After the lengthy debate, the motion finally came to a vote, passing 21-3.
Commissioners Willie Campbell, Acuff, Brown, Hill, Al Meehan, Bradley Johnson, Charles VonCannon, Isaiah Grindstaff, L.C. Tester, Danny Ward, Ross Garland, Bobbie Gouge-Dietz, Timothy Holdren, Randall Jenkins, Larry “Doc” Miller, Culler, Ray Lyons, Scott Simerly, Robert Carroll, Robert Gobble and Cody McQueen all voted in favor of the bailout. Commissioners Buford Peters, Ronnie Trivett and John Lewis opposed the additional funding measure.