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County caps contributions to fire-EMS

County officials approved a new agreement to cap its contributions to EMS operations for this fiscal year, cutting it about $200,000.

The Clark County Fiscal Court approved the measure Thursday during its regular meeting, which would cap the county’s contribution to Winchester Fire-EMS at $450,000 for this fiscal year.

The current agreement, which was approved in 1997, calls for the county to pay 45 percent of any EMS budget deficits with the City of Winchester paying 55 percent.

According to Clark County Judge-Executive Chris Pace’s office, the county budgeted $650,000 for EMS operations in fiscal year 2020, but only $450,000 for FY2021.

Winchester Fire Department and the Clark County Ambulance Service merged in 1991, with the city and county agreeing to split the costs of EMS operations. Winchester Fire-EMS provides EMS services throughout Clark County.

Clark County Judge-Executive Chris Pace said the agreement was for the current fiscal year only, which ends June 30, 2021. The Winchester Board of Commissioners has not voted on the matter yet.

Clark County Attorney William Elkins said the agreement is the result of negotiations between the city and county. Other than the county’s cap on contributions to EMS operations, there were minimal other changes.

EMS operations have been a topic of much discussion between the city and county for more than a year, between expenses of the service and finding a way to resolve an issue with transfer calls from Clark Regional Medical Center to other facilities.

The Fiscal Court decided to postpone any action until the court’s first meeting in October.

The agreement with Breathitt-Wolfe is the result of nearly a year of discussions and meetings of a joint committee of city and county officials.

“When we discussed this agreement with Breathitt-Wolfe handling the transfers …. we discussed this at length,” said Magistrate Chris Davis, who also served on the EMS committee. “There was a motion in the last meeting to approve.”

The Winchester Board of Commissioners discussed the matter in its Sept. 21 meeting without taking action. Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner said the agreement was the committee’s recommendation, and he didn’t know of another option if the agreement failed.

Hospital officials said they have, at times, called multiple agencies for up to an hour trying to arrange an ambulance for a non-emergency transfer.

Winchester Fire-EMS would continue to handle all emergency calls within Clark County.

“This is the strategy the committee came up with,” Burtner said. “I don’t know what the other option is.”

In other action, the Fiscal Court:

— heard a presentation from The Lexington School about using the county’s bonding capacity for the school.

— approved a proposal to increase the salaries for deputy coroners. The vote was 6-1, with Magistrate Robert Blanton voting no because the raises were not made retroactive.

— voted to modify the holiday schedule for the Clark County Animal Shelter.

— tabled an agreement between the county and the owners of the Kerr Building.

— approved a resolution with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Department of Rural and Municipal Aid.

— approved an order to purchase three trailers for Clark County Emergency Management for a cost of $29,683.44.

— approved the purchase of radios for Clark County Emergency Management with CSEPP funds.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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