City letter tells county ambulance, rescue fees must double|[6/29/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2006

Text of Mayor Laurence Leyens letter.

A two-page letter says the Warren County Board of Supervisors should nearly double the county’s payment for ambulance and rescue runs outside Vicksburg’s corporate limits next year and consider a county-only tax increase to fund it.

The letter from at least two Vicksburg officials, was to be hand-delivered to supervisors who were meeting informally this morning, but was not, the county officials said.

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Still, supervisors talked about the situation for nearly an hour and resolved to arrange for their attorney and administrator to meet with the city’s attorney and strategic planner next week.

In years past, county funds have been tapped for about $350,000 annually for non-city responses by the Vicksburg Fire Department personnel and equipment. So far this fiscal year, the county has been billed $400,000. The letter seeks $664,827 at the start of the new fiscal year in October, with any overpayment credited back to the county at year’s end.

The letter does not mention ending reponses at midnight on Sept. 30 if an accord is not reached, but Mayor Laurence Leyens and South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman have pledged that will happen.

&#8220We’ve lost $1 million (doing runs to) the county,” Leyens said.

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, a former county supervisor, has avoided public comment on the issue, and it was not known whether he signed the letter.

While District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders, board president, has said he’s confident a meeting with city officials could achieve a deal, other supervisors have said the city has not met the billing terms of the agreement now in place and has not presented verifiable or reliable information.

&#8220We recognize this is a quality service and a necessary service and an important service,” said District 5 Supervisor Richard George. &#8220We will assure that the needs of the people are met, but at the same time we have an obligation to make sure we’re doing it right.” Areas that are unclear, he said, include how costs are calculated, runs are counted and why billing isn’t better.

Countywide ambulance and rescue services have been provided as a joint venture of the local governments for almost 40 years. Initially, the deal was that county funds would buy ambulances as needed and city funds would be used for equipment and personnel. The cost to the county was about $70,000 per year. Now, one ambulance costs more than $100,000 and the city keeps five in service around the clock.

The letter says projections are: