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County adopts budget, examines ambulance reassignment

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2018 12:00 pm

Bandera County Commissioners’ Court quickly approved a budget and tax rate for the 2019 fiscal year last week before being split by a proposal from Commissioner Bobby Harris to station an ambulance permanently in Lakehills so response times to that area can improve.

“I feel good about the way the meeting went,” Harris said about the Thursday, Sept. 27, Commissioners’ Court meeting even though his proposal to move one of four county ambulances to a new station in Lakehills and man it with volunteers failed on a 3-2 vote. “We’re on the road to trying to get that ambulance down here.”

Harris had argued, based on his review of three years of Bandera County Emergency Medical Service call records, that Lakehills needed an ambulance based there because the amount of calls to the area had grown rapidly but the average response time for an incident in Lakehills was well past the average response time for ambulances countywide.

His study showed that the average response time for EMS calls from Bandera and Pipe Creek to Lakehills in the 38 month he studied was almost 18 minutes, or about seven minutes longer than the average response time for ambulances countywide over the last 26 months.

Moving an ambulance from Pipe Creek to the Polly Peak area, which is one option reportedly being examined as county officials seek a more centralized headquarters for the EMS, would add about four minutes to the average response time in Lakehills, Harris said.

But placing an ambulance in Lakehills would decrease the response times to between “10-11 minutes, which is the same average response the EMS recorded systemwide in June 2018, Harris’ study showed.

“My numbers show there’s a need, without a doubt,” said Harris.

His proposal was rejected with County Judge Richard Evans, Commissioner Jack Moseley and Commissioner Jody Rutherford voting against it, but their opposition was tempered by how much demand for services has grown in the Lakehills area and by how far behind the average response time to the area had fallen.

Evans appointed EMS Director Calvin Plummer to head a committee to see how much it would cost the county to upgrade a facility in Lakehills where the EMS would be located and to pay paramedics to staff the station full time if enough volunteers cannot be pulled to keep the station adequately staffed. Logistical issues associated with movement of the ambulance also will be taken up by the committee.

“I want everybody to have the best services they can have, but I want to be fair countywide,” said Evans.

The court voted unanimously to reexamine the ambulance proposition once the committee has completed its evaluation and made a recommendation to the county.

Plummer said having a third ambulance crew on staff in the department would help it respond faster, but he did not have a preference on where it should be located. He plans to start talking about options that are available in Lakehills with the chief of the Medina Lake Volunteer Fire Department later this week.

Before their review of the ambulance proposal, commissioners approved a $21.3 million budget for the county that will be financed in part by a property tax rate of 67.69 cents per $100 valuation.  That is the same tax rate it’s been at since 2010.

Even with the tax rate staying constant, tax revenue for the county will jump by an estimated $91,534 because the county has more property value to tax next year.  The tax roll in the county grew by about $100 million since last year.

One taxpayer, James Westover, a retired U.S. Army veteran, told commissioners they should have lowered the tax rate as a result of the increased property values and saved overburdened taxpayers money.

But commissioners, having heard little criticism of their spending plan, approved the tax rate as proposed along with a budget that will give employees a 3 percent raise to make county salaries more comparable to the salaries paid employees in similarly sized counties, set aside about $405,000 for new voting equipment and create $900,000 for the purchase of a centralized EMS site.

Evans said he was satisfied that the new budget that takes effect this month also will maintain enough funds in the reserve account to help the county overcome any emergencies.

Commissioners at the Thursday meeting approved an agreement to purchase touch-screen electronic voting machines from Hart InterCivic Inc. for about $400,000, officials said.  The machines will be in place for the Nov. 6 General Election.

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1 comment:

  • ggrothues posted at 2:29 pm on Thu, Oct 4, 2018.

    ggrothues Posts: 1

    The increase in tax revenue will be an estimated $900,000 as opposed to $91,000. Please fact check!

     
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