By CHRIS MENEES
A majority of South Fulton City Commission members have verbally committed to supporting a revised proposal to keep the Twin City Ambulance Service operational.
The commitment by three of the five commission members came during their monthly meeting Thursday evening at the South Fulton Municipal Complex.
However, the city commission did not officially convene due to the absence of both Mayor David Crocker and Vice Mayor Charles Moody.
Fifteen minutes after the scheduled 5 p.m. start time, commissioner Jeff Vowell, a former city manager, announced the mayor would be late and said the three commissioners in attendance — himself, Tony Perry and Thomas Pettigrew — would not officially open the meeting and not officially conduct any business, but would proceed with discussing some items on the agenda.
For over 20 minutes, the three commissioners heard several concerns from citizens and discussed three items of new business without taking any action.
Finally, nearly 40 minutes into the session, Vowell indicated he was tired of waiting and said, “Let’s cut to the chase,” as he approached the subject of the Twin City Ambulance Service proposal.
Vowell said a revised proposal for a three-year lease submitted to the ambulance board Nov. 11 by Parkway Regional Hospital is “a compromise” and “a step in the right direction,” then said he would vote in favor of the revised proposal.
Both Perry and Pettigrew also indicated they would vote in favor of the proposal — which would provide the required three-vote majority for passage from the five-member South Fulton City Commission.
Vowell said the commission will have to hold another meeting to officially vote and any action will be subject to a final contract, but he told those in attendance that the revised proposal will pass. He said the community supports the ambulance service and will continue to do so.
The audience Thursday evening included Parkway CEO Rob Calhoun, Fulton Mayor Elaine Forrester and Fulton city manager Steve Freedman, who is the presiding director of the ambulance board, as well as other ambulance board members, ambulance service employees and several concerned citizens.
Calhoun said work is under way on a contract for the proposal, which Vowell said asks for an annual subsidy from South Fulton based on ambulance usage the second and third years. Perry said the addition of just 22 more ambulance subscriptions from South Fulton would cover the city’s portion of the subsidy.
It was reported that the proposal has already drawn support from the cities of Fulton and Hickman, Ky., and Fulton County, Ky.
Parkway Regional Hospital submitted a revised proposal to the ambulance board Nov. 11, explaining the ambulance service plays a vital role in times of great need and is not a service the community can afford to lose.
“Parkway Regional Hospital is committed to the communities we serve and to ensuring that everyone has access to high quality emergent care,” according to the EMS proposal.
Under the proposal, the ambulance service would agree to transfer all licenses to Parkway and lease all assets for $1 annually. Parkway would assume all operational control Jan. 1, 2012, and would commit to a three-year lease with an option to renew.
The proposal asks for financial commitments from Fulton, South Fulton, Hickman and Fulton County for a $363,000 ongoing annual subsidy equal to the 2010-11 membership fees, with an adjustment for $16,000 in ambulance maintenance costs, bringing the annual total to $379,000.
It was initially proposed that the subsidy be split equally four ways — or $7,895.83 per month ($94,750 annually) from each of the four entities. However, during an Oct. 27 called meeting, some South Fulton officials expressed concern about the subsidy split and whether it is fair to South Fulton since the city’s response and ambulance pick-up rates are lower than those of the other entities.
The revised proposal has the same 25 percent split for the first year, but then offers a subsidy option for the second and third years based on risk, a result of population figures, and run rates, a result of actual calls, for the four entities.
Risk is calculated at the 25 percent rate and an example based on run rates suggests splits of 29.5 percent each for Fulton and Fulton County, 22 percent for Hickman and 19 percent for South Fulton — but the proposal indicates the hospital would audit the run rate at the end of years one and two.
Calculated with the risk and run rate example amounts, for the second and third years, Fulton and Fulton County would each subsidize $103,278 annually (or $8,606.46 per month), while Hickman would pay $89,065 annually ($7,422.08 per month) and South Fulton would provide $83,380 annually ($6,948.33 per month).
The future of the Twin City Ambulance Service recently came to light when it was revealed the ambulance service had reached a critical point in its financial condition. TCAS revenues are derived from EMS billing and membership fees, but participation in a voluntary subscription membership program has steadily declined.
In the past, because revenues collected did not cover operational costs, the City of Fulton subsidized a significant amount of expenses on behalf of the ambulance service. On Aug. 22, the Fulton City Commission authorized Fulton’s city manager to enter into negotiations with TCAS partnerships to obtain additional funding to support the service.
If no agreement was reached, additional funding previously provided by the City of Fulton was set to cease Nov. 22 — prompting the search for funding solutions prior to next Tuesday’s deadline.
Numerous meetings have been held in recent weeks by both the ambulance board and an ad hoc committee of city officials formed following a town hall meeting Sept. 27 in Fulton. The city governments have also held special meetings and pledged support for the Twin Cities area’s much-needed ambulance service.
On Oct. 22, the Twin City Ambulance board received the initial lease proposal from Parkway Regional Hospital in Fulton, prompting several additional meetings of all entities involved and the ambulance board.
In the wake of Thursday evening’s South Fulton meeting, the ambulance board is next scheduled to meet Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Fulton City Hall.
Although no action was taken, other items discussed by South Fulton city commissioners Thursday evening were:
• A request from the South Fulton Public Works Department regarding a water line repair on East State Line in front of the railroad tracks.
• A policy and agreement form for utility line work on private property, also a public works item, as recommended by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service.
• A computer maintenance agreement for the city’s computers.
The three commissioners in attendance heard several concerns from citizens, including two residents who questioned why the city is allegedly using a golf cart around the city when residents have been told it is illegal for them to operate their golf carts on city streets; and another resident who requested the amount be made public for the city’s recent settlement of a lawsuit levied by four former public works employees.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 11.18.11