Board votes to cut EMS spending

First Posted: 6/10/2009

DOBSON In a budget work session Wednesday night, commissioners voted against funding new trucks for Emergency Services and two other agencies.
In an incredibly tight budget year, Surry County commissioners have vowed not to raise property taxes and have found ways to cut the countys budget or put off projects and expenditures until the economy improves.
In the absence of Chairman Craig Hunter and Commissioner Jimmy Miller, discussion about the expenditure of $352,000 for two ambulance chassis bounced back and forth between Vice Chair Paul Johnson and Commissioners Jim Harrell Jr. and Bill Hamlin.
Harrell told commissioners, after looking at Emergency Services Director John Sheltons request to replace two chassis, that three of the countys ambulances have more than 200,000 miles on them. Shelton had previously told commissioners that once the ambulances get more than 150,000 miles on them, the cost to keep them serviced and on the road gets exponentially higher than just replacing the trucks altogether.
I dont have a problem with it, Hamlin said.
I dont have any question that they need them, added Harrell.
Johnson disagreed saying that he would just as soon cut it to one.
The discussion came after County Manager Dennis Thompson explained to the board that Sheriff Graham Atkinson had initially requested the replacement of seven patrol cars. That request had been cut, by the sheriff, down to just five cars, keeping his budget at zero growth.
Next on the table from the manager came a request also from Shelton to replace his emergency response vehicle that has 120,000 miles on it. Shelton had also requested that Surry County Fire Marshal Doug Jones vehicle be replaced. That truck has 180,000 miles on it, reported Thompson.
But with a cost of $34,000 to replace Sheltons Suburban and $35,000 to replace the fire marshals truck, Harrell said, A lot of people around here want a new car, but they are just going to have to make do with what they have.
Johnson responded, I know that Johns is wore out.
Harrell then pointed out that Shelton responds to emergency calls with his vehicle. A question of how many calls he responds to also came from Harrell.
If we are going to do these ambulances … Harrell said, pausing. Weve got some questions that we need to have answered.
After discussion about other budgets items, including personnel insurance, the commissioners revisited the issue of vehicle purchases.
We are going to recommend cutting one ambulance chassis, cut the fire marshals truck, cut Johns new truck, a rabies control truck and an inspections truck, said Johnson.
With Harrell making the motion and Hamlin giving a second, the board voted to recommend the cuts to the other commissioners, which will be presented at the next regular meeting of the board on Monday night.
The commissioners also agreed to absorb a 10-percent increase in county employees insurance premiums.
They would have had a 28-percent increase, but with this decision, they will only have an 18-percent increase, Johnson said.
The decision came after a lengthy explanation of health insurance coverage by Assistant County Manager Betty Taylor.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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