Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
The Carter Count Emergency Ambulance Service has lost around $740,000 in revenue over the last several months, EAS director Rick Loperfido told the fiscal court on Monday night. This is partly a result of limits on their taxing district, and partly because of limits on Medicare payments, Loperfido explained. But it also has a lot to do with the costs of fuel, and lost revenue from calls where the patient refuses transport. In those cases they are out the time crews spent responding to those calls instead of taking other calls that might have been billable, as well as the fuel costs for the drive. Loperfido said that around $17,000 of the lost revenue was just in fuel costs from calls where transport was refused.
Another problem, he said, is with the way assistance is allocated at the state level. Despite being a first responder service, Loperfido explained, emergency ambulance services haven’t received any state COVID relief funds, and only limited federal funds.
The bigger problem, though, is that the service doesn’t qualify for funds that are available to other rural counties. Carter County is not considered “rural” for purposes of state assistance, save for a small portion in the Soldier area, Loperfido said. This is because Carter County is considered part of the Ashland/Ironton/Huntington metropolitan area. This means the area can qualify for some economic development funds related to metropolitan areas. But it also means that Carter County – with no hospital and long distances between dispatch locations and some calls – doesn’t qualify for the same kind of assistance that Rowan County does. Rowan County has a hospital and a smaller coverage area than Carter County – 286 square miles to Carter’s 412 square miles.
Judge Executive Mike Malone said he would like to make the case to the state regarding the issues facing large rural counties like Carter. But until the county can be reclassified as a rural country rather than an urban one, Loperfido said, there will likely be no change in compensation from the state.
Malone told Loperfido that the court would consider his request for support from money allocated to the county for COVID losses, but the court took no action at this time.
The court also heard from E-911 director Joe Lambert and members of the E-911 board regarding replacing a dispatcher who recently left and an increase in dispatcher compensation. E-911, they explained, are facing a similar issue to that faced by law enforcement; namely that folks who are hired and trained in Carter County are taking the training and certifications they receive working here and using them to obtain higher paying jobs in surrounding counties. Because of this Carter County is losing out on the benefit of the certification and training they have invested in.
While the E-911 Board recommended a pay scale change to help retain talent, the court wasn’t ready to take any action to increase hourly rates at this time. Instead Malone suggested a working session with Lambert and representatives from the E-911 board to discuss options.
In other action the court moved to begin the process of removing Tal Road from the county road system, accepted the sheriff’s quarterly report, discussed serving as the pass-through for Genesis CDBG funds, and accepted the Treasurer’s report and approved claims and transfers. They also accepted department reports and, following executive session, moved to approve the hiring of a second assistant road foreman, to report to road department foreman Jason Carroll.
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