Ambulance Authority Board Worries County Commission Faces Billing, Collections Issues

By Lon Anderson
Moorefield Examiner

For the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority, their July meeting was the first of the new fiscal year but was not much different than others, with concerns about facilities, equipment, and service call volumes. They did, however, elect their officers for 2020-2021 fiscal year, but kept the same officers in place: Paul Lewis, president; Tim Thorne, vice president; Doug Coffman, secretary and Tim Ramsey, treasurer.

Perhaps most surprising at the meeting was that, even though the County Commission last spring took back the billing and collections activities concerning the County ambulance fees, there was still strong concern that the County Commission did not have a good grasp of the problems they face.

Lewis explained that the Commission had already experienced an issue because it extended the deadline for payment without incurring late fees. That date extension meant that those who had paid late and voluntarily added the late fees for missing the original deadline needed to receive refunds. They had to give back over $5,000 in late fees, Lewis reported.

“Who is making the decisions about billing and collections?” asked board member Fran Welton. “I’ve been concerned. I don’t think the [private] Commissioners will understand what they’ve got until they have a big problem.”

“The fact is, the Commissioners set up the (ambulance) service,” Lewis reminded everyone. “If they don’t collect enough, then they have to cover the expenses. But they’re going to have to start taking people (who are delinquent) to Magistrate Court (to collect).”

Lewis said that he expects they will begin taking people to court soon.

Board members then discussed their concern that the failure to take people to court in a timely manner for their failure to pay the ambulance fees was encouraging others to ignore making their payments.

“It sounds like they needed to have a billing and collections system in place before they changed it over,” Coffman said.

“Basically, they said to just hand everything over to Rose (Helmick, County Coordinator),” Welton noted.

“They didn’t want any information from me,” said Tina Todd, who had been the secretary who handled much of the accounting and records systems utilized by the authority, noting that she had offered to explain things and provide assistance, but there was no interest.

As for their emergency services, Lewis noted that at the current rate, the 911 Center could end up with 20,000 calls for the year.

Derek Alt, executive director of the Authority, noted that they saw 20% increase in call volume last year, and they are doing more assists in the Wardensville area. He also noted that “refusals held steady.”

Concerning their office building, Alt reported that they had a contractor perform air quality tests in the building. The tests came back good for mold but recommended a complete HVAC system cleaning which has since been done, along with a replacement of discolored ceiling tiles.

The tile replacements revealed old rodent infestations which, he said, predated their move into the building in 2014. That too, has been cleaned up and there is no active infestation, according their pest control contractor, Alt said. “The air seems lighter now. I feel better about it.”

“You ought to consider pulling all of the carpet in the building as well,” Welton suggested.

“We are looking at laminate flooring with waterproof backing,” Lewis said.

“We could do the whole building with it, if the Board wants to,” Alt responded.

“Get a quote for the building including your office,” Welton suggested.

Alt indicated another priority for the building was the replacement of the bay door motors and safety sensors that will stop the doors when there’s an obstruction such as a vehicle or person in the way. He noted that the current motors do not include the sensors, which are an important safety feature.

The Board authorized that work, estimated at $4,812, and a motion was made and passed to pay the bills for the month.[/private]