SNEEDVILLE - Finances dominated the January meeting of the Hancock County Commission earlier this week, and actions of the members make it appear the future of the county's Emergency Medical Services department may be in jeopardy.
Commissioners began the meeting quietly, approving several agenda items in one motion with no discussion. But when it came to the reading of the sheriff's department report, Sheriff Doug Seal explained why he needed several budget amendments, and those were unanimously approved. Discussion then turned to the reading of the EMS report, during which County Mayor Greg Marion explained that although the department has not overspent its budget, it has spent more than half of its budget with only half of the year elapsed.
Marion said the department has spent just over 79 percent of its line item for full-time personnel and over 83 percent of its part-time personnel. During the discussion, Commissioner Charlie Dunsmore offered a motion to fire EMS Director Alan Dale Davis and to hire Jamie Anderson to replace him. A second was offered to the motion, but before a vote could be taken, County Attorney Bill Rhea reminded the court that it has no authority to hire and fire, as that authority rests with the county mayor.
Rhea told the commission that its power is limited to approving or not approving budget amendments.
This prompted Dunsmore to comment that the commission should allow the department to run out of money then shut it down completely. He then withdrew his earlier motion.
Marion said during additional discussion some commissioners agreed with a recommendation that the county should solicit bids from private providers for ambulance service. Other recommendations were that no money be budgeted for the department next year, but no action was taken on any of the recommendations.
The mayor said some commissioner believe ambulance providers would offer their services to the county at no cost, so he is wondering how bids could be taken for the service and how the commission could award bids.
When approving budget amendments for all departments, the sheriff's department again became the center of attention when Marion said the county has been paid $40,557 for inmate medical bills, but he can't issue checks because the department has been budgeted only $12,000 for that purpose. Unless the money is allocated to that line item, Marion said, he can't pay the bills although he has the money and the bills are valid and due. Commissioners then agreed to increase that line item by that amount and to amend all budgets with the exception of the EMS budget.
Marion noted that no budget amendments had been requested by the EMS department.
Commissioners then approved the annual report for the agricultural extension office, the county road list, and the county joint economic and community development board report.
Action was tabled on a discussion regarding the school debt. Marion said C.L. Overman from Cumberland Security was not available, so the meeting was recessed until 7 p.m. on Feb. 5. Overman intends to discuss various refinancing options on the school debt to extend the life of the loan and possibly stave off a potential tax increase.
The commission agreed to open a new account to deposit approximately $100,000 from a circuit court and sessions court fund balance. The money was also earmarked to pay only valid, proven claims against the account.
Commissioners then agreed to pay Dr. Truitt Pierce $16,000 annually to serve as coroner and medical examiner and took comments on a proposed national animal identification system. Action on a request for a resolution opposing the system was tabled until February.