By Max Hrenda
Exactly one week after a Carter County committee failed to agree on an ambulance contract, the county’s Budget Committee also failed to agree on a one-year deal for the Carter County Emergency and Rescue Squad.
The deadlock came 48 days before the county’s current contract with the Rescue Squad is set to expire.
During the meeting, County Mayor Leon Humphrey warned commissioners time is not on the county’s side.
“We’ve wasted two years now talking about this,” Humphrey said. “Let’s not roll this die. Why we’re gambling is beyond me.”
Opponents of the Rescue Squad contract cited several objections to the squad’s offer. Commissioner Ken Arney said he was opposed to the squad filing lawsuits against citizens who have not paid them.
“That’s what I have against this whole deal,” Arney said. “These people are on welfare, unemployment, and Social Security, and you’re taking those people to court. I think you’re doing an injustice to the people of this county.”
Attorney Richard Norris, who represents the Rescue Squad, argued the necessity of lawsuits to recover income.
“Any business, whether for-profit, not-for-profit, or county government has to have the authority to sue,” Norris said. “The county sues, collects, and sells indigent folks’ houses. If you guys didn’t sue people for not paying taxes, there’s going to be a whole lot of people not paying taxes.”
Along with questions of ethics, commissioners also expressed concerns over the squad’s finances.
“I don’t see where we can do anything without some figures about the operation,” said Commissioner Lawrence Hodge. “Salaries, and all that stuff, we have not received.”
Norris countered that Rescue Squad salaries would not be part of the county’s contract.
“You’re not paying for that,” Norris said. “You’re paying for search-and-rescue, corpse transports, and prisoner transports.”
Commission Chairman Tom Bowers expressed his reluctance for paying for these services, however, without first seeing what the squad’s costs were.