EMS sale is like 911 call

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It is often said that extreme times call for extreme measures. And challenges facing Lawrence County’s government may never be more extreme than right now.

But those measures still have to make sense for the long- and short-term solutions.

Massive revenue shortfalls and ever increasing expenses prompted the county commissioners to agree to sell its five EMS buildings to the Lawrence County Port Authority, a quasi-governmental agency that focuses on economic development.

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At first glance, this move that has garnered much criticism seems to make little sense and appears to be short-sighted. And it is in many ways, in part because several clauses essentially mean the county will still be responsible for maintenance, insurance and possibly taxes, in addition to adding nearly $60,000 a year in expenses from leasing the buildings back.

However, once a few points are understood, the need to do something makes sense — if and only if significant changes are made in 2010.

Has the county done a poor job of cutting expenses and managing itself? Absolutely. But that doesn’t change its current situation.

But the reality is that the county has taken more than a half million dollars in revenue losses, leaving a more than $250,000 hole in the sheriff’s office budget.

Plus, the county has caught up on nearly $500,000 in unpaid bills that were carried into this year.

These issues all need to addressed before this year ends or else the problem is perpetuated.

So essentially the county needs to borrow money to clear the slate and give it a solid foundation for moving forward.

Borrowing money, while certainly not ideal, has to be done at this stage. But that could be accomplished without losing an asset.

The county should simply take a mortgage on these properties and pay it back as quickly as possible.

This way it gets the short-term cash infusion and only adds a temporary additional monthly expense instead of a permanent one.

If the port authority needs funding that should be addressed separately. It can certainly wait until the county sees where it stands.

We do applaud the commissioners for taking a bold step but hope they stop to make sure they are going the right direction.