County EMS to take over Washington Township’s service

Published 8:27 pm Friday, October 7, 2016

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to take on Washington Township’s EMS service, and not renew the contract with City of Washington EMS.

Beaufort County EMS will absorb coverage of Washington Township when the contract expires on June 30, 2017. The decision comes with a EMS service district tax increase of 4.5 to 5 cents per $100 property valuation for Old Ford and Clark’s Neck residents in fiscal year 2017-2018.

“It did come as something of a surprise to us, but it’s the county’s call, so we’ll just do the best we can,” city Manager Bobby Roberson said. “We’ve served Old Ford for a long time.”

The decision on contract renewal followed discussion about the ongoing transition to paramedic-level service throughout the county during the commissioners regularly scheduled meeting on Monday.

“I’ve made a commitment to do paramedic-level service in the entire county, and we’re not doing that for Clark’s Neck and Old Ford,” said Commissioner Frankie Waters. “We’ve made a commitment, and we’re (already) subsidizing in other areas of the county.”

“The problem for us — for those of us who live out there — if there’s a lot going on in the City of Washington and someone calls 911, we get zero (response). … I would rather see us have a truck dedicated to that area,” said Chairman Jerry Langley, who resides in the area. “My whole mindset is that the county have a countywide EMS service so that everybody in this county can get the same service.”

County Manager Brian Alligood said he’d also received a letter from a Washington Township business asking for an increased EMS response above what had previously been provided by Washington EMS.

Commissioners weighed three options: to renew the contract with the City of Washington at $157,255, an increase of 2 percent over last year’s contract; contract with the City of Washington to provide a dedicated EMS unit for the area, dedicated to EMS calls only — the unit would not respond to supplement fire calls — for approximately $572,000; or have Beaufort County EMS provide paramedic-level service, which would be offset by billing revenue and cost the county approximately $121,000 from the general fund.

Since Washington EMS covered Washington Township with no additional staff and equipment, the cancellation of the contract leaves a $156,500 hole in the Washington budget for next fiscal year.

“It’s a concern. We’ve got to make that up, but thank goodness (the decision to not renew) came early,” Roberson said.