Ambulance service issues take up most of fiscal court meeting

Posted October 23, 2019 at 8:43 am

The Clinton County Fiscal Court held its regular monthly meeting Thursday, October 17 with all magistrates present.

Much of the just over two-hour meeting centered around a discussion with EMS employees pertaining to rumors that the local Clinton County Ambulance Service was going to be sold.

Several EMS employees, who feared for their local jobs and possible loss of built up benefits such as retirement, spoke to the court about the issue.

Earlier in the meeting, the court did vote to “advertise” for proposals for a Clinton County EMS Outsource Partnership with nothing set in stone on accepting any proposal from any specific company.

Late in the meeting, following a half hour closed session in between, employees asked questions of Clinton County Judge/Executive Ricky Craig and court members about the rumors and voiced their concerns.

A long-time employee, Mark Thrasher, who now works part-time at the local EMS, said he had several questions and concerns about the EMS situation as to where it stands.

It seemed that one of the major issues was the low ambulance billing collections, which is reportedly collecting just over 30 percent of bill amounts actually sent out.

Magistrate Jerry Lowhorn did note that the ambulance service had billed out $1.7 million, but received only $500,000 in actual payment.

Some EMS workers also questioned whether or not local employees under a partnership agreement would result in them no longer being local employees, some saying they were worried about losing benefits and others noting they were already looking around for other job options.

A few of the employees also questioned why they themselves had not been notified about what was going on, saying it would have been ‘common courtesy’ to discuss the matter with the employees that may be affected the most.

One employee theorized that if the county contracted with a private ambulance management company, bills would likely go up and service to local residents would go down.

The court again noted that some billing companies specialize in ambulance service billing only and would guarantee a certain percentage collection rate on ambulance runs.

Magistrate Ray Marcum asked assistant county attorney Gary Little if the court could go back and look at the contract with the current company doing billing collections.

Little suggested the court discuss the contract with the local company and request an opt-out of the contract, also noting it could be declared an emergency situation.

Judge Craig told those in attendance that he would talk with the local billing company this (past) Monday about the situation and see if it would release the county from the contract so the county could move forward in contracting with another company that would guarantee a higher collection rate.

He also told the employees present that although the county was exploring an outsource partnership to try and assist with the local EMS, it “was not going to be sold.”

EMS Director Lonnie Scott also said that originally five billing companies had been interviewed, but in the end, the local company was hired by the former administration to do the local collections. He said the last contract was updated without the (fiscal) court knowing it.

One employee told the court, “We want input…this is our livelihood.”

The discussion on the EMS situation lasted about 45 minutes prior to the meeting being adjourned and more information on the issue will be published as details become available.

Several other issues were also dealt with during the lengthy regular meeting.

The court accepted the monthly treasurer’s report, approved fund transfers and voted to pay claims and bills to start the meeting.

A public hearing on a county road resolution was scheduled to begin the meeting, but viewers of the road noted the Soaring Eagle Hawk Nest Road, which has petitioned to be in the county system, had been rejected because the road did not meet standards set forth in the county ordinance pertaining to county roads.

For instance, there were trees too close to the roadway, the road was not tiled and there was no road distance indicated by survey. On a motion by magistrate Gary Ferguson, who was one of the viewers of the road, the court voted to reject the petition to accept it into the county road system.

On a motion by magistrate Marcum, the court voted to set the pay for election personnel who will be working in the upcoming November election and the court postponed action on hiring a county building inspector until their November meeting.

After approving a cash transfer from the general to LGEA fund, court members had a discussion and split vote on changing a condition on how a county road may be accepted into the county road system.

Some court members wanted the 2017 ordinance that required a certain amount of blacktop on roads before they are accepted as a county road be reinstalled, along with other criteria.

Magistrate Terry Buster, however, noted that in some areas where only two or three residents live on a road, they could not afford to have blacktopping done and also noted the county could maintain a road by simply keeping it graveled and kept up and blacktopped only if funds became available.

Magistrate Marcum also agreed with Buster, saying that just because it was a county road (under the current ordinance) does not mean it has to be blacktopped to be maintained.

Following a brief discussion, magistrate Lowhorn moved to revert back to the previous CR-17 ordinance requiring blacktopping, with magistrates Ferguson and Mickey Riddle also voting yes. Magistrates Buster, Marcum and Johnny Russell voted no. Judge Craig voted yes to break the tie in favor of reverting back to the past ordinance, which will require a first and second reading by the court.

During department head reports, the cost of having recycle products hauled off and shipped was costing the county a lot of money.

Magistrate Buster said “we are paying a lot of money to have garbage hauled off,” referring to the amount of household waste still being put into recycling bins illegally.

There is also a high cost of having regular recyclable products such as cardboard and other materials shipped.

Magistrate Marcum suggested the court hold some type of work session to come up with ideas to cut costs on the local recycling saying “We need to make some adjustments.”

Court members agreed to think on ideas about what could be done to reduce costs to operate the recycling program and present those suggestions at a future meeting.

Sheriff Jeff Vincent told the court that the two new sheriff’s department vehicles, which had been long awaited for, had finally been realized and were shown off for the first time during this past weekend’s Foothills Festival during the parade.

The court then voted unanimously to appoint Pam Morgan and Amanda Messer to the Clinton County Library Board, each for four-year terms, and voted to pay Ginger Russell for her two days of work at the courthouse during last weekend’s festival.

Magistrate Ferguson then asked about the rotation of the towing service when it came to towing vehicles during such incident as vehicle accidents, etc. He said there had been one service that felt it had been left out.

Emergency Management Director Scott said there was a long standing system that all three towing services were on a list and each were called in turn. He noted that if any service turned down a call, they missed their next turn, but noted all services were on the list and each were called on a “next in line” basis.

Assistant county attorney Little then informed the court about a class action suit that many counties in Kentucky were joining to sue companies that allegedly prescribed opioids, which has led to an opioid epidemic in the state.

He noted that joining the suit, which is being litigated by an Owensboro attorney, was at no cost to any county and if the suit is won, counties could be in line to receive compensation.

Little recommended Clinton County join in that class action suit, with the county doing so following a motion by magistrate Riddle.

The court then entered into an approximate half hour closed session on personnel, with no action being taken behind closed doors.

Following the closed session, the court, on a motion by magistrate Buster, voted to pay $29,819.45 in back state withholding from the years 2015-18 to avoid having to pay any daily interest payments.

The court also voted unanimously to approve a standing order to allow transfers to the Occupational Tax Fund to other accounts without the necessity of holding special call meetings to take those actions.

The next regular meeting of Clinton Fiscal Court is scheduled for November 21 at 5 p.m.

Court holds special

meeting to deal with

fund transfers

Clinton County Fiscal Court held a special call meeting last Wednesday morning with only one item of business on the agenda.

During that meeting on October 16, the court voted to approve another cash transfer from the Occupation Tax Fund to the EMS and Jail funds for payroll.