City, county discuss changes in ambulance, rescue financing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 26, 2001

Members of the city and county boards meet Wednesday. Officials are, from left, District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield, District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman, Mayor Laurence Leyens, Vicksburg Strategic Planner Paul Rogers, District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon, North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young, District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale and Warren County board President Richard George. (The Vicksburg Post/CHAD APPLEBAUM)

[07/26/01] A new agreement on cost-sharing for ambulance and rescue services might result from the first meeting of the Warren County Board of Supervisors with Vicksburg board members who started their terms July 1.

Many issues were discussed and Mayor Laurence Leyens said he hoped for improved communications between the two governing boards with overlapping responsibilities.

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“My goal with this meeting is to start a good working relationship with the county,” Leyens said.

He said one needing change was the agreement between the city and the county for public ambulance and rescue service based at the city’s fire departments. Currently, Warren County pays the city $250,000 per year for Vicksburg ambulances to make emergency runs in the county.

The cost of maintaining an ambulance service that serves both city and county residents is about $1.6 million a year. Leyens said he wants a new agreement that would be based on actual use instead of using a fixed amount.

“The outcome I’m looking for is that the county pay only what it uses,” he said.

The new agreement proposed by Leyens would charge the county for only the emergency ambulance runs in the county not paid for by insurance. Richard George, president of the board of supervisors, said that he had no idea if the proposed agreement would be a savings or end up costing the county more money for ambulance service.

“We really don’t have a figure,” George said. “And the main event really will be the cost.” In years past, private ambulance services have courted city and county officials for a contract to do business. The issue arises annually because city and county officials prepare their operating budgets in September for fiscal years that start Oct. 1.

Although no figures were available to indicate if the cost to the county would increase or go down, Leyens said he has a plan to reduce the cost of ambulance service overall.

The city ambulance service has had problems for years with collections. While this year the city has collected $300,000 in fees, it is estimated another $600,000 will not be paid, said Strategic Planner Paul Rogers.

To resolve the problem, Leyens said he wants to contract out the collection of ambulance bills to a private organization that would receive a percentage of fees collected.

“What that will give us is an accurate figure that’s not arbitrary,” Leyens said.

With the new collection system in place, the city would figure what percentage of emergency ambulance runs not covered by insurance were in the county and charge the city appropriately, he said.

City and county officials also discussed the amount paid by Vicksburg to the county for tax collection and E-911 services, cleaning of bayous in the city and the future of the Kings Community Center.

Although no date was set, Leyens said the county, city and school officials should hold a public forum to discuss the center in Kings and the $1.2 million Jackson Street Creative Resource Center, still being built, but without an operating plan or budget.