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EMS needs $214,672 fix for rest of 2007

Jeff Davis, chief financial officer for Harrison County Hospital in Corydon, asked the Harrison County Commissioners for an additional appropriation of $214,672, for the emergency ambulance budget Monday morning.
The Harrison County Council had earmarked $603,000 for the ambulance budget for 2007, but it appears the actual operating budget for the year, estimating the rest of December, will be $850,000.
In 2005, the cost to operate the ambulance service was $620,000; it was $650,000 in 2006.
Davis said the cost fluctuates from year to year.
‘It’s sort of feast or famine,’ he said. ‘When things are up, money carries over to next year.’
Harrison County EMS director Gary Kleeman said they have to make a best-guess scenario for their budget, and then at the end of the year look at the reality. Some years, money is left to carryover and other years ‘ such as 2007 ‘ they are short, said Kleeman.
However, as a five-year study of ambulance costs has revealed substantial under-funding of EMS services can be found across the nation, said Kleeman.
Other factors have contributed to the high cost for the ambulance service this year including Harrison County not receiving the bulk of runs from Caesars Indiana. The runs to the riverboat create an estimated $90,000 per year, according to Davis.
For about a five-month period, Caesars Indiana in southeast Harrison County was using a Floyd County service for its ambulance needs, creating an estimated $35,000 to $40,000 loss for Harrison County. Furthermore, Medicare and Medicaid pay 1 percent more each year for ambulance services, but the operating cost goes up about 5 percent each year, according to Davis.
‘A lot of people are coming in here with the same issue,’ said Commissioner J.R. Eckart. ‘It’s getting a little irritating.’
Eckart said it seems many groups operate the way they want to, ignoring the budget, and then come in and ask for money at the end of the year.
Davis said next year will be the same situation, with the council not funding the entire amount requested. Davis requested $767,700 for 2008, but the council approved $659,700.
‘When we submitted the budget showing 45 cents on the dollar, the council thought it was 47 cents on the dollar,’ said Davis. ‘We’re collecting smaller percentages as time goes on.’
Davis said the council’s cut accounts for a third of the EMS’ deficit issues.
But Eckart said that Davis should come in front of the council now, not in December 2008.
‘More and more money is being taken out of the riverboat (fund) for daily operations,’ Eckart said. ‘That scares me.’
Yesterday morning (Tuesday), Kleeman said that they plan to go before the council, but not to ask for more money. Instead, they want to look at possible specific areas where they can cut money.
‘My concern, you have to look down the road,’ said Commissioner James Goldman. ‘If eventually that funding is not there, then you wouldn’t have a choice but to lower service. I don’t think anyone wants that. It’s paramount.’
‘Every one of us is proud of the service you provide,’ said Eckart. ‘It’s really top of the line.’
Davis said the council told him to come back and ask for the equipment budget out of the riverboat fund.
‘Nothing ever indicated that they wanted to cut services,’ said Kleeman.
‘If there is a way to cut overhead, we’ll do it,’ said Davis.
Commissioner Terry Miller said this additional was like a planned additional by the council.
‘We’ve always had a good relationship with the commissioners,’ said Davis. ‘I don’t want to jeopardize it with this issue.’
Harrison County has gradually expanded its ambulance service in the last 10 years with additional stations in Elizabeth and New Salisbury. Three crews work 24 hours a day, and one more crew is available during midday.
Miller made the motion to send the additional request to the council.
‘I don’t see how you can put a price on the service, really,’ said Miller.
In other matters Monday morning, Steve Gilliland, executive director of the Harrison County Community Foundation, announced Howard Dismang as director of the Parks Access to Recreation Grant project. Dismang was unable to attend the meeting because of a family emergency.
‘We’re going to have a very aggressive schedule,’ said Gilliland.
Gilliland said the goal is to have everything complete in 15 months. Bob Sawtelle, manager of O’Bannon Woods State Park, said they should have 99 percent of the project done before Memorial Day weekend, Gilliland reported, adding that Sawtelle bought a machine for making signs, which saved $6,000 from the budget.
‘We’re pretty excited to make our own signs,’ said Gilliland.
The parks will also receive help from Spalding University students. A group of four to five students will visit the parks and measure the accessibility and other factors.

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