Council Adjusts Certain EMS Fees
PARD Money Appropriated To Sweetwater & Bettis
Edgefield County Council voted unanimously to approve adjustments to certain Emergency Medical Services at their monthly meeting, Feb. 7. The adjustments come after a meeting last year in which EMS was determined by Council to be a high priority item. As such, the fee structures for certain services were reviewed with the goal of determining the best way to use user fees so that they best benefit EMS and how to ensure that the people actually using the services are paying for them and not taxpayers. One of the increases approved is the fee applied to disposables. Currently, people treated by EMS pay a flat fee no matter if they use disposables, such as oxygen masks and I.V. lines, or not. The change will enforce separate fees for extra levels of services reflective in the use of disposables. Also changing will be the mileage fee. EMS was receiving $14/mile but that fee was only imposed one way and not on the return trip to Edgefield County. The change will see the fee increased to $15.97/mile. Another change will be seen in the billing related to such incidents as accident scenes. Currently, multiple patients from one family receive one bill. However, it was pointed out that this is like taking one’s entire family to a single doctor’s appointment. The change will see each individual who receives aid charged. Changes will also be seen in helicopter transports. As it stood, EMS would respond to a scene, stabilize the patient for transport, and then pass the patient off to the helicopter for further transport. However, EMS would not receive any compensation for their role. The changes will now provide for reimbursement. Additional changes will also occur to no-transport calls, of which EMS was described as receiving “a lot”. Those calls are now going to be charged $165. Administrator Tommy Paradise explained to Council that last year there were 92 times in which there was no ambulance available, either from Edgefield County or any of their Mutual Aid Partners, to send to a call. That same scenario has occurred 27 times so far this year. As such, Paradise stressed the need to staff the County’s third ambulance 24 hours a day; it is currently only staffed 12 hours a day. To that end, he explained that by combining the extra funding the fees changes will provide, with money that will be saved from overtime currently being paid to staff the third ambulance, the County will be able to fund the staffing of the third ambulance full time. Paradise said that the County has the equipment to utilize, but it just needs the personnel. He also explained that these changes are just the first phase in increasing the capacity of EMS in the County. He advised that it is going to take about $1.68 million to totally “fix” the issues with EMS.
In other business, Council voted to purchase a new motor grader from Flint Construction and Forestry Division. Flint provided one of three bids although one of those bids was declared non-compliant. Flint’s bid was the lower of the two compliant bids at $221,000; this includes the machine’s price of $176,000, a $45,000 trade-in, and an additional 5yr/7500 hr. warranty for $471. Per Administrator Paradise, the County might receive more for the machine by selling it online. As such, it will be placed on an auction site first. However, if does not receive a bid higher than $45,000, then the County will accept the trade-in offer. A buyback option was offered but was declined as the County has been achieving over 10 years of life on the machines. With the trade-in and extra warranty figured, the final cost of the motor grader will be $176,471. Council had budgeted $225,000 for this purchase, so it is under budget. This move was unanimously approved.
Council was also asked to approve Parks and Recreation Development (PARD) funds. The County received $8,840.43 in PARD funds with a $1,768 match for a total in $10,608.51 in PARD funds that must be used before Oct. 31 of this year. Council was asked to approve $2,500 of those funds for a double-sided sign to be placed at the Sweetwater Community Center. The remainder would be spent at Bettis Park. That money would be used to purchase a 4 seat seesaw with border timbers and mulch, 2 benches, and a picnic table. Any remaining money would be used for the purchase of additional benches or picnic tables at the park. Council voted as one to approve this measure.
Council also gave approval to the first readings of two ordinances regarding developments in the jointly owned and operated industrial park in Aiken County. It was reminded that these projects are occurring in Aiken County, that nothing new is being constructed, and that Edgefield County simply needs to “sign off” on these projects as members of the Economic Development Partnership. Council was also reminded that Edgefield County receives 1% from these projects, code named Project California and Project Roy, as members of that partnership. Council gave unanimous approval to both of these ordinances.
Council was asked, and gave full support, to a resolution endorsing and supporting the Rural County Transformation Fund. It was explained to Council that this is legislation expected to soon be introduced to the state legislature that would provide resources to rural counties in regards to infrastructure, quality of life, and economic and educational development. These resources would be to support growth and development within rural counties as many are not seeing the growth seen in urban counties. It is projected that if this legislation passes, Edgefield County would be eligible for an additional $600,000 for 5 years. Chairman Dean Campbell said this legislation is also a “good way” to continue to “raise the flag” that counties are not being fully funded by the state.
Council was addressed by Miller Edwards, Partner at Mauldin & Jenkins, who informed that the County received a “clean audit report”. Edwards said the fund balance “looks pretty good” and called it “very liquid.” He went onto say that the County can “weather storms” with its “good, strong fund balance”. Council was told that $405,590 had been budgeted for use from the fund balance, but, due to positive revenue and effective cost controls, the fund balance increased by $137,900. Edwards said that Council did not spend as much as they budgeted and took in more revenue than expected. He called this a “win,win”.
Council also heard from concerned citizen, Allen Johnson, in their public comments portion of the meeting. Johnson addressed the need for access to utilities, specifically internet service, to residents in the rural areas in the county. Johnson said that all that is available in terms of internet service where he lives is satellite internet, and he expressed that it does not meet his needs, particularly in the area of home security. Johnson told Council that he had spoken with Northland Cable Company in reference to providing service to his area and that the company advised him to speak to Council. He was advised by Council that Administrator Paradise would get his contact information and follow up on this matter. Johnson also spoke of wanting to get water and sewer services. However, Council advised him that he would have to go to the Water and Sewer Authority with those concerns.
In his closing comments to Council, Administrator Paradise informed that in 2016 Edgefield County saw the largest growth it has seen since 2007 and the second largest growth it has seen in 15 years. He relayed that E911 has changed its street sign vendor. The change will see savings of approximately $1,000 a year. Paradise also informed that the roof at the Kneece Building is leaking. After reviewing the matter with the architect and contractor, it was recommended that a cap be put around the top façade. Cost estimates for this are expected to be in this week. The additional asbestos found at the building, about which Council was informed last month, has been removed, and Paradise announced that it is now a “clean building”. He said that work on this project continues to move forward. Paradise told that he would be attending the Economic Development Institute the coming weekend. This training is being funded by the Economic Development Partnership. Before ending his remarks, Paradise asked Council to take a moment to recognize Sgt. Greg Meagher, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Deputy who died this week after being exposed to nitrogen while trying to rescue exposed workers. Saying that deaths of law enforcement personnel “always hits close to home,” Paradise urged local law enforcement and other agencies to see what lessons can be learned from this tragedy.
In his closing remarks, Chairman Dean Campbell said that Council had great participation in their annual intergovernmental meeting and reminded that the meeting “helps build trust and credibility.” He also mentioned the following dates and times of joint meetings in which Council will be participating: Mar. 2 at 5 p.m. with CTC; Mar. 27 at 4 p.m. with the ECH Board; and Apr. 13 at 4 p.m. with the Planning Commission. All meetings will take place at Council’s Chambers.
Council did go into an executive session before adjourning. They returned to report no action had been taken. However, upon their return, a motion was made to revise the administrator’s contract to reflect his second year on the job. Based on his first year’s performance, this revision will show an increase in salary of $1,800. This matter passed unanimously.
Chairman Campbell relayed that while in executive session, Council was “very effusive in their praise” of Paradise.
With no other business to discuss, Council adjourned.