POINT PLEASANT — Like a repeat from 2017, the funding of EMS services was once again at the forefront of a Mason County Commission meeting.
Commissioners Tracy Doolittle, Rick Handley and Sam Nibert met for a special executive session on Friday to discuss EMS service in the county, and how to pay for it. Before adjourning into executive session, commissioners took comments from members of the public who showed up to attend the meeting.
There were members from a few local fire departments who had heard the commission may be voting on creating an EMS fee to assist with funding EMS services. Some firefighters spoke about their collaborative role with EMS as first responders, often arriving on the scene first to secure it and what that entails given the situation, including if someone is injured. There were questions about what any fee would cost, and where and how it would be distributed.
Commissioners said they welcomed dialogue from everyone on this issue of funding EMS. They also explained they were not voting on an EMS fee, or even placement of an EMS levy, on Friday. They met on Friday to crunch the numbers in regards to finding funding for EMS. That process of finding a solution is ongoing, commissioners told those gathered.
“We really have to go through everything that’s being done up there (at EMS) before any decision is made,” Doolittle said while holding a stack of paperwork which included EMS expenses and reports. “It’s like Sam (Nibert) said, we owe that to the people in this county.”
Doolittle further explained: “This whole situation has gotten us all concerned because the majority of our people in Mason County are living on fixed incomes and of course, we have to take care of them. Everybody here is very, very important. So what is our best option?”
Nibert then talked about changes in Medicare and Medicaid billing that have had a huge effect on the bottom line regarding what EMS could bill and be reimbursed for. He said a difference between a levy and a fee was the way it was collected. Levy money is paid with the collection of taxes and a fee would be collected by a designated agency. Commissioners Nibert and Handley said a fee could be collected by an ambulance authority or the sheriff’s office. Nibert clarified whichever agency collected it would have to be spelled out in an ordinance and all the money from a fee would go into its own designated account.
“Whatever we decide on…a fee, levy, whatever, its got to be a fix. We’ve got to fix the problem,” Nibert said. “We’ve got to take care of 27,000 people in Mason County. We’ve got to look at every one of them. We want it to be right.”
The general consensus from the commissioners was, in order to consider options, and find the best option, they have to take a detailed look at the most current EMS financial documents before, and if, they take any further steps.
Commissioners then adjourned into executive session and after adjourning back into regular session, no motion was made or action taken.
In attendance, in addition to Nibert, Handley and Doolittle, was County Administrator John Gerlach.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.