By Jean A. Flanagan
“No matter what you do, it won’t be fair to us.”
Landlord Roger Ours told the Hardy County Commissioners asking landlords to collect the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Service Fee puts an unfair burden on them.
The commission met in special session on Monday, Oct. 24 to discuss amendments to the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Service Fee Ordinance. At the request of the commission, Hardy County Prosecuting Attorney Lucas See presented several amendments to the ordinance.
“We are not responsible for water, sewer or electric,” Ours said. “If a tenant moves out, the service goes back in our name, but we’re not responsible if the tenant hasn’t paid his bill.”
As the ordinance is written, property owners are billed annually for the fee. Landlords are liable for the number of rental units they own.
One of the amendments See presented allowed landlords of three or more units to pay in monthly installments. For example, at a $120 per month fee, if a landlord owns 10 units, he/she could pay $100 per month to cover the $1,200.
“We have no leverage to collect from the renters,” Commissioner Harold Michael said. “The power company can shut the power off.
“In Morgan County even if your unit is vacant, you are still responsible for pay.
“We added language to allow landlords to pay on a monthly basis.”
“Everyone of us agrees with the fee,” said landlord Loy Kesner. “We don’t agree we should be a collection agency for the county.”
“Can they (renters) come and pay directly and bring us the receipt?” Ours asked.
“That’s a good compromise,” Michael said. “You, as property owners, are liable for the fee. If you say to your tenant, either you pay directly and show me the receipt or I will charge it with your rent. The hardest people to collect from is renters. We’re trying to spread it out. The more people who pay, the less it is for everybody.”
The commissioners also asked See to include language in an amended ordinance that would include a fee structure for businesses. See included the language and the commissioners suggested the categories, based on number of employees and fees as follows:
Less than 10 $ 120
11 – 25 $ 240
26 – 100 $ 480
101 – 500 $1,000
501 – 1,000 $2,500
1,000 and up $5,000
Commissioner J. Michael Teets said he would like to see the number of businesses in the county. “I’d like to see how much money that would bring in,” he said.
Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority Director Derek Alt was asked to estimate revenue from billing. Medicare and Medicaid reimburse ambulance costs based on the level of care and mileage. Advanced life support is reimbursed at a higher rate than basic life support. Mileage is based on an ultra-rural category because of the distance to an emergency room.
Alt used the call volume from January through September and BLS level of care as a benchmark.
HCEAA responded to 267 calls during that time. He also figured 47 miles from the Baker station to Winchester Medical Center Emergency Department.
[private] “At the lowest rate, we would receive about $50,000 for those calls,” Alt said. “Since Medicare reimburses at a higher rate, it would be about $165,000. Private insurance pays more.”
Alt said he was working on renewing the HCEAA state license. “The paperwork is in order, but we have to purchase some supplies for the ambulances,” he said.
The HCEAA employees primarily use chase units to respond to calls.
Someone asked why the county couldn’t impose an additional sales tax to fund ambulance service.
“The county commission does not have that authority,” Michael said.
HCEAA Vice President George Crump asked if the county could reduce fees for volunteers who contribute a specific number of hours.
“The ambulance authority could make some kind of reimbursement,” Commission President William “JR” Keplinger said.
“When the fee goes into effect, how long before we have 24/7/365 coverage?” asked Bill Mooney.
Alt said not more than two to three months.
“Once we get through the licensure, we need to hire and train staff and we should be ready to go,” HCEAA President Paul Lewis said.
See reiterated his recommendation that the fee be implemented as soon as possible, to be effective January 1, 2017 and that amendments be finalized and implemented July 1, 2017. “It gives us time to work on the amendments and brings in some revenue for the ambulance authority,” he said.
The County Commission is scheduled meet in regular session on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
The commission will hold another work session on Monday, Nov. 7, beginning at 5 p.m.
All meetings are open to the public.[/private]