(03/15/2013)
An audit by a state authority on Calhoun County EMS was presented to the Calhoun Commission Wednesday, with the auditor saying, "I'm not sure it (Calhoun EMS) can be salvaged."

March Tucker, Director of Emergency Programs, Office of Emergency Medical Services, told commissioners that the financials of Calhoun EMS are in "such disarray that auditors can't make sense, or estimate their debt."

Tucker said the agencies debt could be from $7,000 to $40,000, but it could be as high as $70,000.

He said the audit indicated Calhoun EMS had a continuing problem paying withholding taxes for its employees, after a serious episode a few years ago with IRS that they owed about $60,000.

Commissioner Chip Westfall, after hearing the report, said "We know the County Commission is responsible to see that ambulance service is provided. We'll do whatever is necessary to see that happen."

The report said no clear records are maintained, no clear budgeting or accounting principles. Tucker said EMS lets bills lapse, while "operating out of a checking account."

The Calhoun Commission has been at odds with Calhoun EMS, holding formal meetings requesting budgets and finances, after which the former director Josh Johnson told commissioners they had no authority over the agency, nor did the commission have a vested interest in an EMS plan to expand services to Wirt County.

Tucker said Calhoun EMS taking such a position was a violation of state code.

Commissioner Weaver has challenged Johnson on his position, saying "I [Weaver] represent the taxpayers and citizens of Calhoun County...county taxpayers support a levy to finance the ambulance operation."

Weaver further said, "The county [taxpayers] owns your ambulances, the building you operate in, pays your insurance costs, loaned you money and has given you money for operations," adamantly saying the county does have a vested interest.

Recently, Minnie Hamilton Health System obtained a $50,000 grant so EMS could meet payroll, after which the agency gave nearly $5,000 in Christmas bonuses to their employees, reportedly with other pay raises.

During the same period the agency had a number of non-functioning ambulances, Minnie Hamilton and other agencies loaned ambulances so service could be provided.

Danny May, current director of the service, told commissioners that the agency is re-grouping.

Last year, commission president Kevin Helmick said, "We have reached a point where we need to look at options. There have been times when meeting payroll has been on the edge, and the agencies credit to get gasoline has been cut off."

Helmick resigned from the EMS board upon a recommendation of the auditors, who said he was positioning himself in a conflict of interest situation.

Helmick said, "The situation is worsening for them to stay afloat." See CO. COMMISSION DEALING WITH AMBULANCE ISSUES - Calhoun EMS Denies Financial Problems Saying "It's Just Politics"

During a review of the audit, auditor March Tucker said:

- There are no substantial complaints regarding direct delivery of service to patients.

- "The (EMS) administration has failed Calhoun EMS."

- Calhoun EMS recently denied "free" help offered by Minnie Hamilton Health System to do billing, which would have saved the agency several thousand dollars.

- Calhoun EMS has no drug testing policy, issues with having a Medical Director, and a maintenance plan for ambulances.

- Issue of not having certified mechanics working on ambulances.

- Eight of 27 individuals connected with the operation returned a survey conducted by the audit.

- No clear mission statement.

The audit covered numerous other issues, with Tucker saying his agency will attempt to give a final report on the financial status, but with the lack of records, it will be difficult.

A special commission meeting has been set for March 18 at 5 p.m. to look at options providing service to the county.


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