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Emergency services operating under budget

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By Calen McKinney

After three-fourths of the fiscal year has now become history, Taylor County's emergency services are still spending less than what they budgeted to run their operations.

The committee charged to study operation, revenue and expenses at Campbellsville and Taylor County's EMS, Fire & Rescue and E-911 operations met Thursday night to discuss the status of their budgets.

Committee members include Campbellsville City Councilmen Mike Hall Jr. and Greg Rice and Taylor County Magistrates Richard Phillips and Ed Gorin. Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young and Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers are non-voting members. Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette, EMS Director Gary Magers and Fire & Rescue Chief Kyle Smith also attended the meeting.

Young presented members with a report of the emergency services operations' income and expenses for the fiscal year.

The report totaled the figures from last July through March, which marks the three-fourths point of the fiscal year, the time at which budgets could be spent at as much as 75 percent and be on target.

"And we're doing quite well," Young said.

At the end of March, the Fire & Rescue operation had spent 65.9 percent of its budget. The E-911 operation has spent 70.4 and EMS has spent 71.5.

Magers said his operation is due some money for its services. Billing can take a while, he said, and $386,000 worth of bills have been sent but not paid for yet. Magers said private insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare and those without insurance all pay different percentages of bills, so of the $386,000, he expects the EMS operation will actually receive about $150,000.

The Affordable Care Act has slowed billing even more, Magers said, but expenses at his operation are still down $71,500 from what has been budgeted.

Young said he has spoken with those in charge of various departments. Several are seeing expenses coming in at less than what has been budgeted, though Young said that doesn't mean the departments are spending money just because it is available in their budget.

Runs at EMS, Magers said, are holding steady when compared to last year. So far this year, he said, his employees have responded to 3,259 runs. Of those, 2,657 have been paid runs.

Young said there is money owed on only one of the medic units at EMS and that one will be paid for in January, which will be the time in the current rotation to buy a new one.

Magers said he will likely ask to order one in July because it takes about six months to get them.

Having a two-year rotation to buy new units, Magers said, has saved significantly on maintenance costs. This year, he said, his department has spent $11,000 for the routine work on its vehicles. During his first year as EMS director, he said, the operation spent $58,000.

Magers said he is working to get GPS equipment in all medic units to help his employees in case they are given wrong directions or street signs are missing when they respond to an emergency.

The EMS operation recently bought 10 new radios, he said, and he is working to get stretchers that will more comfortably accommodate larger patients, which are a significant portion of those his employees help.

At the E-911 center, Hazlette said, there has been an effort to re-brand the center as part of the police department, as it has always been. As such, some adjustments have been made to scheduling to cut overtime costs. In the past four years, he said, $150,000 has been spent in overtime pay at the center.

Hazlette said the center went from having about 15 employees, who worked both full and part time, to having 12 full-time staff members. This cut down on overtime and ensures that all staff members are certified, Hazlette said, as part-time workers don't have to undergo the certification full-time members do.

Smith said his department got word just earlier in the day that it was awarded a $22,800 grant from Kentucky Homeland Security to buy an all-terrain vehicle and some new radios.

When the state fire and rescue training center closed earlier this year, Smith said, the equipment there became no longer available to his department. There were two all-terrain vehicles at the center, and his employees used them because they didn't have one of their own.

Smith said he has spoken with state officials about what will be done with the state training center and he has been told the building will be appraised, though there is no definite plan as to what will happen to it.

"It's in a flood plane," Hall said. "There's not much you can do with it."

Having the center in Campbellsville, Smith said, saved lots of money when it came to his employees being trained. Sending a group of employees to training somewhere else, he said, could easily cost $3,500 a trip.

Hall asked committee members to talk to state and other officials about keeping the center open.

Rogers said it would be good to partner with Campbellsville University to offer fire science classes at the center. Smith said he has met with CU officials to discuss that. And, Smith said, his department will soon offer fire science classes at Taylor County High School. Read more about that in Thursday's issue.

Smith said he and Taylor County Fire & Rescue Chief George Wilson have been working to implement some new policies and procedures to improve their operations. For example, he said, one change is that those on call will respond to incidents and fewer off-duty and volunteer people are being used.

"We're putting the best trained folks on the scene ... and we're doing it with less people," he said.

The committee set its next meeting for Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Taylor County Courthouse. It is open to the public.