PARTIAL PAYMENT: Belhaven votes to only pay portion of EMS bill

Published 8:23 pm Friday, April 1, 2016

BELHAVEN — Belhaven’s Board of Aldermen has decided to only pay part of its bill for county EMS services.

At Monday’s meeting, the board voted to pay the county about $62,000 instead of the full bill, totaling $89,100. Ricky Credle was absent from the meeting, and Tony Williams declined to vote.

Belhaven pays for its county-provided White Oak EMS services through property taxes. The town is used to paying a bill of around $89,000, which is the equivalent of residents paying 7 cents per $100 in property valuation. Five cents per $100 covers the cost of EMS services, while the other 2 cents covers the cost of housing ambulances in Belhaven, according to Beaufort County EMS Director John Flemming.

Mayor Adam O’Neal said Monday that Belhaven pays the highest of any district in the county, the next highest being Pantego’s 5 cents per $100. He said he doesn’t think it is fair for Belhaven to pay more, thus prompting his suggestion to only pay the $62,000, which is equivalent to 5 cents per $100 in property valuation.

“Bath pays nothing. We pay 7 cents. That’s not fair at all. We’re a small town, too,” O’Neal said. “I think we can justify the 5 cent(s), but it’s up to the board what you all want to do.”

The original bill under dispute, which started at $152,000, is for the total of White Oak EMS services for fiscal year 2015, which includes two, six-month contracts for a truck staffed with an EMT-Intermediate and a yearlong contract for an ambulance staffed with a paramedic.

The Board of Aldermen elected to not pay the $152,000 bill at its Feb. 22 meeting until a representative could meet with the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to discuss the roughly $60,000 hike. Flemming said the increase was due to the addition of another ambulance in Belhaven, as well as upgrading to paramedic-level services — decisions that were made with representatives from Belhaven present.

At the commissioners’ meeting March 7, O’Neal asked for a bill reduction and maintained that the town board gave no approval for the price hikes. The commissioners voted 6-1 to reduce the bill to $89,100.

“Really, if the county commissioners, if they were fair, would’ve taken us down to 5 cents. It’s not right to charge people different amounts of money for the same service,” O’Neal said Monday night.

The county is in the process of bringing all EMS services under the county umbrella, partially in an effort to equalize the cost of services across the county’s districts, although the charges remain the same at this time.