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Commission OKs funds to SEOEMS

The Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Services District now has all the funds it needs to get caught up on its current bills.

The Lawrence County Commissioners voted Thursday to advance $154,000 to the financially beleaguered ambulance service that serves Lawrence, Athens and Jackson counties.

That will be added to money from Athens and Jackson.

“It is no secret there have been some fiscal issues,” Commissioner Jason Stephens said at its regularly scheduled meeting.

Recently SEOEMS Board Chairman Larry Payne said that the district owes several hundred thousand dollars in bills without enough revenue from patient runs to cover that amount.

A proposal was floated at the district’s board meeting last week where the three counties would put in a total of $385,000 into the district. Athens and Lawrence would each put in $154,000 with Jackson putting in $77,000. Each county’s commission would have had to approve the funding.

That would cover the June and July PERS payments, health insurance premiums for July and August and payroll for periods ending July 16 and July 30. The counties would then be reimbursed for those sums from proceeds from the tower sales.

The county has $1.025 million budgeted for SEOEMS annually with $342,000 left in that line item. Right now the cash on hand from the one-half percent sales tax reimbursement from the state totals $350,000.

“It wouldn’t hurt any operation,” Stephens said.

Later all three counties would be reimbursed from the funds the ambulance service would receive from the sale of its six communication towers after it switches to the more economical MARCS system, used by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

That sale could potentially bring in $1.7 million to the ambulance service district. With the MARCS system, the ambulance service would no longer need the tower sites, which would eliminate maintenance costs. The district would only have to pay a service fee, expected to be $20,000 less annually than what the district pays for tower maintenance.

Right now there has been speculation that Athens County might pull out of the tri-county operation. If its commissioners choose to do that, they would have to give 90 days notice.

“If there is a break up,” Stephens said. “(The move to MARCS) would be a smooth transition on the technical side.”