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Twin City Ambulance Service needs financial rescue

Twin City Ambulance Service needs financial rescue
By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
There’s no question about the need for the Twin City Ambulance Service.
The question that remains, though, is how to fund it.
Fulton city manager Steve Freedman, also presiding director of the Twin City Ambulance Service (TCAS), recently revealed the ambulance service has reached a critical point in its financial condition.
As of Tuesday, a balance sheet showed total current assets of $111,870 — with $42,373 cash in the bank — and total current liabilities of $170,350. This means current liabilities in excess of current assets is $58,480 and current liabilities in excess of cash in the bank is $127,977.
An operating revenue sheet distributed at a town hall meeting Tuesday night in Fulton showed total operating revenues of $236,172 and total operating expenses of $329,924 for the period July 1 through Tuesday.
The ambulance service’s revenues are derived from EMS billing (60 percent) and membership fees (39 percent). Voluntary membership fees of $10 per month are collected from residents in Fulton, South Fulton and Hickman,  Ky., as well as some Fulton County, Ky., residents and a few businesses in the coverage area.
However, participation in the subscription membership program has steadily declined over time.
In the past, because revenues collected did not cover operational costs, the City of Fulton has subsidized a significant amount of expenses on behalf of the ambulance service.
On Aug. 22, the Fulton City Commission adopted a municipal order which authorized Freedman to enter into negotiations with TCAS partnerships to obtain additional funding to support the service. If no agreement is reached, the additional funding previously provided by the City of Fulton will cease Nov. 22.
Tuesday night, elected officials and citizens from Fulton, South Fulton, Hickman and Fulton County packed the Pontotoc Community Center in downtown Fulton for a two-hour town hall meeting hosted by the ambulance board.
Among those on hand were members of the Fulton City Commission, South Fulton City Commission and Hickman City Commission, as well as Fulton County magistrates. Elected officials in attendance included Fulton Mayor Elaine Forrester, South Fulton Mayor David Crocker, Hickman Mayor Charles Murphy and Fulton County Judge/Executive David Gallagher, with Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire also among those in the audience.
Milton Dean of Fulton moderated the meeting, which sought suggestions about the future of the ambulance service and funding options. He reviewed the service’s financial condition and said simply that liabilities exceed assets, creating “a severe problem.”
Many elected officials and citizens commented during the session, in which Dean urged them to dwell on the future rather than the past in finding a solution to fund the ambulance service.
John “Pete” Algee, a South Fulton representative on the ambulance board, started by urging those in attendance to work together for a “win-win” solution to continue to have an ambulance service in the Twin Cities and all of Fulton County.
Gallagher said Fulton County officials want to work with those involved to find a feasible funding plan and they know it will take a financial commitment. He said they have examined the possibility of a bill plan for water meters.
He said the existing ambulance service is “top-notch” and he said elected officials owe it to the citizens of Fulton County to find a solution.
South Fulton resident Jeff Campbell said the option of not having an ambulance service in the Twin Cities is not an option. He said between now and Nov. 22, all of the bodies involved in the discussion need to meet and sort out a fair solution for the good of the people.
There were many questions and sometimes heated discussion about the possibility of a tax or a mandatory fee to fund the ambulance service as opposed to a voluntary fee for a subscription-type operation and utility billing. City and county legal counsel and elected officials pledged they would research the options and the legalities, which include the added challenge of different laws which govern Kentucky and Tennessee.
“Let’s just get together and find a way to make this work,” John Cagle, chief of the Fulton County Rescue Squad, urged after some heated discussion.
David Lamb, an ambulance board member who works as a law enforcement officer in South Fulton, said the service is vital to the community and officials need to “buckle down and work together” to find answers.
Gallagher said it is vital to get the right people together and set up an ambulance service in a manner in which it needs to be set up. He said the ambulance service is vital and a decision must be made quickly, but he said he is confident it can be done.
“This is not rocket science,” he said.
Gallagher said the current ambulance service is good and the people want to continue to have the same quality service, which drew applause from the crowd.
Ultimately, Dean suggested an ad hoc committee comprised of representatives of all the entities involved and legal counsel. He said another meeting could be scheduled to keep the public informed.
Representatives of all the city and county government boards in attendance pledged to be involved in the process to find a solution.
Dean said a lot of good recommendations were made Tuesday night and a good starting list of ideas was compiled.
He said the ad hoc committee should try to meet within the next 10 days since time is of the essence.
About TCAS
The Twin City Ambulance Service provides immediate and mutual aid response — including both basic and advanced life support service — to a more than 400-square-mile service area.
The service responds annually to about 2,000 calls, which consist of primary 911 calls, inter-facility transfers and requests for fire rehabilitation from fire departments and rescue squads. It also provides stand-by service for special events, such as high school football games.
Ambulance service is provided from two stations — one in Fulton and another in Hickman, Ky. Areas served include all of Fulton County, Ky., and parts of Hickman County, Ky., Graves County, Ky., Obion County and Weakley County.
TCAS was formed in 1999 to provide emergency ambulance service to residents and others in the Twin Cities area and is structured as a not-for-profit Kentucky corporation. It has two owners with equal interests — Fulton and South Fulton.
In 2006, TCAS purchased a license to operate an ambulance in the City of Hickman and the surrounding area.
Published in The Messenger 9.28.11

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