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Magistrates have agreed to begin operating Rescue next fiscal year - but not without asking for some changes to an agreement that spells out the details.
At Tuesday night's special Taylor Fiscal Court meeting, magistrates voted 5 to 1 to enter into an agreement with the City of Campbellsville to begin operating Campbellsville/Taylor County Rescue on July 1.
Magistrate John Gaines cast the lone "no" vote.
The Campbellsville City Council approved its version of an agreement last week during a special meeting.
Magistrates want the city to pay off a $175,000 debt, relinquish ownership of Rescue property as well as make other changes.
Tuesday night's vote came after many meetings of the Council and Court as well as a joint committee meeting to discuss how to fund Rescue and Campbellsville/Taylor County E-911.
The current agreement between the city and county calls for the city to operate both Rescue and E-911 services countywide and for the county to pay the city $650,000 each year. That agreement expires June 30, and magistrates recently voted to take over operation of either Rescue or E-911 and for the entities to stop sharing money.
The agreement approved by the city calls for the county to operate Rescue and the city to operate E-911 without contribution from either entity.
It also prevents the county from subcontracting rescue services and mandates that it maintain Rescue's high level of care.
A two-year transition period is included in the new agreement, ending May 1, 2013, during which the city has the right to resume control over Rescue.
Also included is that the county will continue to pay for the operating costs of the Campbellsville/Taylor County Economic Development Authority and the city will give at least $100,000 as a payment on a $2 million loan for property at the Heartland Commerce and Technology Park.
The agreement also calls for a Council member to be appointed to the Court's Fire Protection and Emergency Services Committee.
The agreement will automatically renew every 10 years unless either entity opts to terminate the agreement within six months of renewal.
Magistrates spend nearly 2 1/2 hours on Tuesday night discussing the details of the agreement and voted for several changes, including:
An agreement that includes the magistrates' changes will now go to the Council for its approval.
To begin discussion of the proposed agreement, Magistrate James Jones said he would like to have more information about the cost to run Rescue before making a decision.
Councilman Jimmy Ewing, who attended Tuesday's meeting, as did Councilman David Nunery, told Jones that the current Rescue budget totals a little more than $1.95 million and includes all salaries, benefits, expenses and debt payments. Income totals nearly $1.2 million for a deficit of $760,000.
Magistrate Matt Pendleton said that would mean the county will have to absorb the $760,000 shortfall, which is $110,000 more than it currently contributes.
Pendleton said he is concerned that EDA funding is lumped with an emergency services agreement.
County Attorney John Bertram said the EDA funding was included in the agreement to put in writing the remaining areas where the city and county both contribute.
Magistrates said they would like EDA to be taken out of the agreement or for the contribution from the city and county to be equal, such as $100,000 from each for operating costs and $100,000 from each to pay on the property.
Magistrate Ed Gorin said he doesn't agree with the city keeping the building on which Rescue is built even though the county will be operating the service.
He said Rescue has a $175,000 debt and E-911 debt totals $123,000, which will be paid off next year. He said landline surcharge fees - which must be spent at the E-911 center - equal about $110,000 each year. In 10 years, he said, that will total more than $1 million.
"I think fair is fair," he said. "We're basically giving 911 debt free."
Magistrate Tommy Corbin said he doesn't understand why the agreement is set to renew every 10 years.
"I thought we wanted to get this settled once and for all," he said.
Pendleton said he believes the 10-year renewal has to do with EDA payments and the city wanting confirmation that Rescue services will continue to be offered inside the city limits.
"The moral issue is, we will," he said.
Pendleton said it might be best if the agreement simply ends when the transition period is over and to draft a separate one for EDA.
Bertram said agreements, by law, have to contain an ending date. With the 10-year automatic renewal, he said, there will always be an agreement that states the city will operate E-911 and the county will operate Rescue. The agreement will also ensure that E-911 will receive funding from surcharge taxes the county passed.
Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers said that whichever entity has a certificate of need must operate Rescue services countywide.
Gorin said, "The city is in the county and we're gonna take care of all of it, regardless."
Pendleton said another of his concerns centers on the May 2013 expiration date, which is after the current City Council term. He said he would like the transition date to be changed to Dec. 31, 2012, the last day of the current term, to ensure that only those Council members currently in office could be the ones to ask for Rescue operation back. He said he feels it won't be fair for the Court to have to prove itself to a potentially new group of Council members in only five months.
However, he said, changing that date isn't a "showstopper" for him to approve the agreement.
Jones said he believes it could be difficult to operate Rescue with someone watching over the magistrates' shoulders.
"[And] saying, 'Oh, you made a mistake here, we're gonna take it back,'" he said. "What are some criteria?"
Bertram said the operation of Rescue is a big deal and the city believes it owes it to city residents and taxpayers to see that the service continues at its current quality.
The new agreement states that the county will have full discretion in how Rescue operates, as long as the quality doesn't suffer. If it does, the city has stated it will take it back.
Magistrate Richard Phillips said, "The way it's written, they have that right, and they don't have to give a reason."
Jones said he doesn't like that.
"The city's got to trust us and we've got to trust the city."
Bertram said the Court has three choices - to reject the Council's agreement, to accept it as is or to accept it but propose changes. If the last option is chosen, he said, magistrates take the risk that the Council won't approve them and there won't be an agreement reached.
Pendleton said he believes the magistrates' proposed changes aren't unreasonable.
If the city keeps the land on which Rescue is built, he said there might be a question as to who is responsible for maintenance if an air conditioner needs repair.
Overall, Pendleton said, he believes 98.9 percent of the proposed agreement is good and only a few minor changes are needed.
Rogers said the county can't insure a building that it doesn't own, so there will have to be a lease for it to operate Rescue during the transition period.
Phillips said he would be more comfortable if the transition period ends when all Medicaid billing numbers are transferred to the county. That process could take up to a year.
Magistrate John Gaines said he doesn't understand what the qualifications are for maintaining Rescue's current quality of care.
"I'm farther apart than any of you all on this," he said.
At this point, Gaines said, the county is looking at contributing $760,000 to Rescue when the city only asked for $650,000.
"Only if they like [how the county operates Rescue]," he said. "I think it comes down to trust. I don't think they trust us."
Gaines said the county intends to keep the same personnel and equipment but may have to make some changes in how the service is operated based on what the county can afford. He said he has given the proposed agreement to four people to read and they all say it's a bad deal for the county.
"They said, 'Why would you want to take it when they've got the right to take it back?'" he said.
If the Court operates Rescue well, Bertram said, he doesn't anticipate the city asking for the service back.
"Why would they want it back? This Court has made it clear about how they feel about sharing money."
The idea of a joint City Council and Fiscal Court meeting was proposed to allow both bodies to discuss possible changes to the new agreement. No decisions were made, though an agreement with the changes magistrates approved will be drafted and sent to the Council for its consideration.
As of press time, the city had not received a copy of the agreement magistrates approved and there were no plans for a special Council meeting to discuss magistrates' changes.
The Council's next regular meeting is Monday at 7 p.m. at its meeting room above the Campbellsville Police Department. It is open to the public.