PARSONS – Larry Armbruster, president of the Tucker County Ambulance Authority, said the voluntary ambulance fee asked of Tucker County residents was very unsuccessful and on Wednesday Armbruster asked Tucker County Commission members to consider making the fee mandatory.
Armbruster said when the voluntary fee was implemented last year the hope was to generate around $175,000 to $180,000. He said the voluntary fee brought in scarcely more than $15,000.
“That’s one of the reasons we do not have 24/7 coverage at one of our two stations,” Armbruster said. “The money is just not there to do it. To maintain the goal of 24/7 coverage and to do the other necessary things, the Tucker County Ambulance Authority voted at their last meeting to ask the Commission to make the Ambulance Fee a mandatory fee by modifying the ordinance to make the fee mandatory instead of voluntary.”
Armbruster said with the modification from voluntary to mandatory, he hopes the EMS will be able to provide the service to Tucker County residents they deserve.
Commission President Lowell Moore agreed the voluntary fee did not bring in as much as they had anticipated.
“This is something we are going to have to work out,” Moore said. “We have to read the ordinance and Commissioner Diane Hinkle is not here today.”
Moore asked the issue be tabled until Commissioners had time to discuss the possible change and learn what steps they would be necessary to make if they voted to change the fee from voluntary to mandatory.
The voluntary ambulance fee was established by the Tucker County Commission and became effective July 1, 2016. The voluntary fee requests were mailed with Tucker County tax tickets and asked for a voluntary payment of $25 per residence and a voluntary payment of $50 from businesses and residents who owned rental property.
Armbruster reported on the goals set by the Tucker County Ambulance Authority for the EMS last year.
“When we made this proposal a year ago, we provided you with some goals we had set as an Ambulance Authority,” Armbruster said. “I want to go over those goals to give you an update on how we are doing so far.”
Armbruster said the goals were to provide 24/7 coverage from two EMS stations, to respond to a call within 10 to 25 minutes, to increase employee pay to competitive rates, to maintain and replace equipment to meet current needs, to increase the number of paramedics for better patient care and to continue to maintain a third station as circumstances dictate.
“We have come close to the two stations providing 24/7 coverage from two EMS stations. We are running 12 hours a day at two stations and the night shift is manned at one station which is alternating between the Parsons and Thomas. So we are part way there,” Armbruster said. “We think we are doing reasonably well on our response times. We were able to give our employees a raise last year and we are proposing to do that again this coming year.”
Armbruster said fortunately they have not had to buy any expensive equipment.
“But the cost to maintain some of our ambulances is extremely high,” Armbruster said.
Armbruster said paramedics are on-duty three-fourths of the time which helps provide better patient care.
Also during Wednesday’s Commission meeting, Commissioners heard from Robert Burns, executive director of the Tucker Community Foundation.
“I am here today seeking some financial assistance with a project of the Foundation, the Tucker County Chamber of Commerce, the Tucker County Development Authority and others are working on,” Burns said. “We want to do an entrepreneurial pitch contest. What we are basically looking at is a little different from ‘Shark Tank’ on television. We would not be purchasing an interest in the business but giving them a small grant to help start out.”
Burns said the hope is to raise $15,000 so they can give out three $5,000 awards.
“The whole idea is to help new businesses and maybe some start-ups for existing businesses,” Burns said. “As you know small businesses are one of the biggest growths in a community like ours in employment.”
Commissioners voted to give $1,000 for the entrepreneurial pitch contest.
Vickie Smith, health and physical education instructor at Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School, extended an invitation to everyone to attend the school’s Field Day including a Color Run and Community Dunk Tank, slated to begin at 11:50 a.m. Friday, April 28 at the school.
Smith said she wrote and received a grant for $1,000 from Healthy Kids and purchased yoga mats. She said during the summer, she is joining forces with PRO ON TRAC and will be offering Yoga in the Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“These activities are a step in the right direction to help promote more healthy lifestyles,” Smith said. I want to plant a few seeds and change a few attitudes. Unfortunately, West Virginia ranks 49 out of 50 for obese children. I want promote health and wellness and stress healthy eating habits.”
Commissioners voted to donate $300 toward the Tucker Valley Elementary Middle School field day, Color Run and Community Dunk Tank event.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Tucker County Commissioners also signed two proclamations for April declaring the month as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Angie Shockley asked Commissioners to approve beer sales during the Annual Chili Cook Off. Shockley said the event is scheduled for May 11 and proceeds from the event help sponsor the Saddles and Smiles program. Saddles and Smiles is a nonprofit foundation providing equine-assisted therapy with kids and occupational therapy with kids on horses for local youth who have special needs.
Commissioners voted to allow the sale of beer during the Chili Cook Off.
The next Tucker County Commission meeting is slated for 4 p.m. April 26 in the Tucker County Courthouse.