County manager discusses city EMS services

Published 6:02 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Beaufort County does not want to take over Washington’s EMS program, according to Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood.

Instead, the county is exploring the best way to provide countywide EMS coverage in an equitable manner that could include the county levying a countywide EMS tax, Alligood told the Washington City Council during its meeting Monday. A miscommunication between county staff and city officials apparently led city officials earlier this year to believe the county intended to take over the city’s EMS duties, according to those city officials.

Alligood reminded the council that counties, under state law, are responsible for making sure EMS coverage is provided to their residents. The county may provide such coverage itself or contract with another entity to provide the coverage.

“It has consistently been the position of the county that it is not our intent to take anybody out of the EMS business or take over anybody’s agency simply to provide the service if there is a gap or if there is a hole in it,” Alligood said.

“Our goal … is to figure out a way to fund EMS on countywide level, and we want to do that in a way that uses existing agencies and we want to drive down the cost” to provide EMS coverage across the county,” Alligood said. Doing that means using money from the county’s general fund, he said. “We would contract with those agencies that are currently providing those service, including the city, and county dollars would be used to pay for those services,” he said.

“The flip of that is we would reduce the EMS service districts to zero,” Alligood said. Currently, the county has several EMS service districts in which property owners, depending on where they live, pay up to five cents per $100 valuation for EMS coverage. The county is looking at doing away with those districts and replacing their EMS taxes with a countywide EMS tax. That way each property owner is charged for EMS coverage under the same tax rate, Alligood noted.

What the rate would be is unknown currently because the county does not have all the information it needs regarding the cost of providing countywide EMS coverage, Alligood said, adding that the county is working to obtain that information so it can begin to formulate a funding plan.

Alligood’s remarks to the council did not convince some council members that a county funding plan for countywide EMS coverage is the right way to go.

Councilman Richard Brooks prefers the county’s existing way to pay for EMS coverage in areas in the county that are outside the city — EMS service districts with their varying tax rates. Brooks said it’s his job as a council member to look out for the best interests of city residents and property owners.

“First of all, I’ve always believed that if something isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” Brooks said. “I don’t see where the system is broke.”

Brooks was adamant in wanting to keep the status quo in regards to the EMS relationship between the city and county. “I think the city should take care of the city and the county take care of itself,” he said.

Mayor Mac Hodges asked Alligood who decides — under a countywide EMS program — how the city’s EMS program (part of the city’s fire department) operates. “That short answer is you run the fire department,” Alligood.

Under a countywide funding system to pay for countywide EMS coverage, the county would contract with the city to provide two ambulances to provide EMS coverage in specific areas of the county. If it got to the point where the city would need to add another ambulance to meet its contractual obligations, the county would provide the money to do that, Alligood said. “If you don’t have enough ambulances in the city of Washington, then the county would say, ‘We need to fund another ambulance,’” he said.


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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