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  • Bradford County Cuts

    No Lawtey EMS station next year

    By:Mark J. Crawford, Telegraph Staff Writer August 28, 2003

    The need to balance the budget for the county's Emergency Medical Services department meant plans to place an EMS station in Lawtey next year had to be scrapped.

    New items requested by EMS Director Nelson Green totaling nearly $155,000 that also included a new part-time clerical position were trimmed to just $2,400, enough to fund the director's salary increase next year. Modest cuts were also made to the allocations for the purchase of medical supplies and the repair of transports, but the cuts were not enough to balance the department's budget. When the Aug. 22 budget workshop began, the department still showed a deficit of $21,007, around $30,000 if changes in workers' compensation were added to that amount.

    Green's plan for a Lawtey station was based on interest from the city and called for the relocation of a 12-hour Starke EMS transport to Lawtey and its conversion to a 24-hour transport. The cost of doing so was estimated at $139,000. In addition, Lawtey has offered space in its firehouse to house the EMS station.

    While Green said the run volume to the city of Lawtey was not alone enough to justify a new station there, EMS could respond to as many as 4,100 calls this year, meaning the county could use another 24-hour transport on duty. As the next most populous area in the county, Green said the choice of Lawtey as a location was dictated by logic.

    It was clear, however, a new 24-hour station was a luxury the county couldn't afford when Green was asked by County Commission Chairman John Cooper to cut the amount of overtime generated by the department in order to balance the budget.

    Cooper pointed out that the $173,428 budgeted for overtime was 54 percent as much as the budget for straight salaries, but said only a certain number of those overtime hours were mandatory.

    "We understand that because of the nature of that beast - it's a 24-a-day, seven-day-a-week operation - you're going to have to pull some overtime... But I would like to get the lion's share of that $30,000 from that (overtime) line, then challenge Nelson to figure out how to decrease that overtime," Cooper said.

    Green countered that a cut in overtime was not a workable solution since what was really being talked about was cutting hours. He said the board told him to staff the 12-hour Theressa truck as best as he could when that station was founded and he is doing that using overtime medics.

    Green said that even the traditionally slow months of summer have seen an increase in the amount of calls responded to, and the trend of more calls could continue when summer is over.

    "Come the busy season, which is traditionally October, November, and December, and into January, where are we going to stand on providing services for the people?" Green asked. "It literally scares me."

    Cooper said he was only asking what had been asked of the road department in the past regarding mosquito control - that a way to accomplish the job without using as many overtime hours be found. He said this would require using staff other than full-time personnel that would have to be paid overtime.

    Green said it couldn't be done because the $7 an hour that would be paid to a part-time medic would not make it worth their time to work for the county.

    Commissioner Doyle Thomas wanted to know to what level service would be reduced if overtime was cut, and Green said he would have to cut 1,600 hours somewhere. That means a truck wouldn't be on the road certain days, he said.

    Thomas said he wasn't willing to pin Green down for $21,000 ($30,000 with the workers' compensation adjustment) when the safety of individuals was concerned.

    Instead, Cooper directed Finance Director Jim Farrell to find cuts in the commission's budget and transfer the amount needed from the general fund to the EMS budget.

    "If that's what it takes from the board, then that's what we'll do," Cooper said.

    Mark Crawford can be reached at [email protected] or 904-964-6305
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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