Resident questions city’s lease with Sound Rivers

Published 6:38 pm Thursday, April 28, 2016

Although Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, tabled authorizing the city manager to execute a lease for Sound Rivers to occupy space in the city-owned building next to the Washington Civic Center, one person urged the council to not provide that authorization.

Susan Zachary said she considers Sound Rivers, a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting water quality of area waterways, as an outside agency in that it receives support from the city. That support, she said, comes in the form of cheap rent for offices on the second floor of the building that houses the city’s tourism office, which is adjacent to the Civic Center. “Sounds Rivers pays a one-time $10 fee in exchange for rent-free use of this space,” she said.

“Sound Rivers is a nonprofit, outside agency just like Eagle’s Wings, Zion Shelter and Ruth’s House, to name a few,” she said. Zachary, an Eagle’s Wings board member, questioned how much money Sound Rivers has “in the bank” and if Sound Rivers had shared its financial books with the city. Zachary said a nearby facility, similar in size to the Sound Rivers office, rents for $350 a month. If Sound Rivers paid the amount each month to the city for use of the office space, the city would realize $4,200 a year, she said. The $10 annual fee Sound Rivers pays the city for using the office space equates to unfair, special treatment of the nonprofit, she contends.

“Please vote no on … the lease for Sound Rivers. I have absolutely nothing against the Sound Rivers organization. I just want all outside agencies to be treated equally,” Zachary said.

The current lease between the city and Sound Rivers expires June 30. The council did not indicate when it would revisit the lease matter.

In other business, the council approved an amendment to the city’s EMS billing and collections contract that should result in savings for the city.

The existing contract with EMS Management & Consultants was entered into in 2010. At that time, the contract specified that EMS Management & Consultants would receive 7.5 percent of collections in made on behalf of the city. Later, that rate dropped to 7.25 percent upon achievement of specified performance conditions.

The amendment extends the contract by three years and lowers the collection fee to 6.95 percent. Implementation of the amendment would save the city about $2,100 a year, according to a memorandum from Matt Rauschenbach, the city’s administrative services director and chief financial officer, to the mayor and council.

The agreement may be terminated for several reasons, including if Beaufort County takes over EMS coverage in the city.

The city’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016-2017, which begins July 1, includes $45,000 for EMS billing services and $5,000 for EMS bad-debt collections.

For the current fiscal year, the projected revenue from EMS Management & Consultants’ collection efforts is $700,000, according to Rauschenbach.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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