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January 18, 2003

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Published Jan. 17 in the Paintsville Herald

Paintsville looks to remedy ambulance money pit

By KEVIN CONLEY
Paintsville Herald Staff Writer

PAINTSVILLE — The controversy surrounding the Paintsville Ambulance Service has been well documented by local media—both print and broadcast. And, the threat of the department being closed has loomed large during the past year. Excessive overtime has been questioned by the city’s council members and the deficit under which the department has been operating has been a major source of concern.

Many remedies have been discussed but none have been effective in reversing the trend of the department losing money. And, another option was offered by Paintsville Fire Chief Bob Dixon during the January meeting of the Paintsville City Council Tuesday.

As of the meeting, there was a total of $227,000 outstanding on the department’s books. The money is a result of unpaid bills for services rendered to individuals. Dixon suggested that a collection agency be retained to aid in the collection of the bills.

Paintsville Mayor Doug Pugh said that he would add the item to the February agenda.

The following are some of the previous suggestions to address the financial problems of the department.

•In August, Dixon requested that the city take over all 911 emergency ambulance

Dixon stated that the problem leading to excessive overtime and the downward trend in income was due, in large part, to the question of when First Response would or would not be on the 911 rotation list.

According to Dixon, First Response would sometimes call and take themselves out of the 911 rotation, leaving Paintsville as the only service available in the county, thereby creating overtime situations due to the inability to plan an employees regular schedule.

Dixon requested that all calls received through Paintsville/Johnson County 911 Dispatch be directed to the city’s ambulance service. Then mayor Robin Cooper agreed, saying that the city is ready for the extra work.

“We have enough units in place that we could handle the biggest part of it,” he said. “We are conforming to their schedule and not ours.”

While Cooper acknowledged that the city was not in business to make money, he did give his opinion as to the quality of the service offered.

“We’re not in the profit business,” he said. “I do think that when it comes to emergency runs we offer the best service.”

•Excessive overtime was also discussed in the October 2002 meeting. During that meeting, Dixon reiterated that the problem leading to excessive overtime and the downward trend in income was due, in large part, to the question of when First Response Ambulance Service would or would not be on the 911 rotation list.

However, overtime decreased by 500 hours during September. And, as ambulance runs continue to increase, Cooper said that he was pleased with the progress being made.

The issue will again be discussed during the February meeting.

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