Audit: SEOEMS owes county

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Could get $301,396 from surplus revenue

Recent state findings could mean a windfall for Lawrence County. Now the next step is to see if, and when, the money will actually come into county coffers.

This past Thursday, Dave Yost, state auditor, released an audit of the Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Service for years 2008, 2009 and 2010.

SEOEMS, the now defunct tri-county emergency service, was disbanded Dec. 31, 2010, when Athens and Jackson county commissioners voted to pull out of the service. That forced Lawrence County to start its own EMS, which began operations in Jan. 1, 2011.

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According to the audit in each of the targeted years Lawrence County made money. In 2008, Lawrence County brought in $169,851 more than its expenditures; in 2009 that figure was $118,750 and the last year of SEOEMS, the county had $12,795 in receipts over expenditures.

However, Athens operated in the red for all three years with a total deficit of $409,118. On the other hand, Jackson had a surplus of $68,175 in 2009, but deficits of $83,598 in 2008 and $220,884 in 2010.

“Athens and Jackson counties owe (SEOEMS) $645,425 and Lawrence County is due a refund,” County Auditor Jason Stephens told Commissioners Les Boggs and Bill Pratt at their Tuesday meeting. Commissioner Paul Herrell was absent. The commission met two days earlier this week because the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Legislative Day will be on Thursday, the regularly scheduled meeting date.

“Lawrence County was pulling its weight,” Stephens said. “In my opinion the other two counties were having issues. In 2009, we raised our rates because we saw what was going on and didn’t want to put the burden on the taxpayers. It made a huge difference. We ran a lot more runs and were paid a higher rate.”

The county is due a refund of $301,396 from SEOEMS, Stephens said in a letter to the commission that accompanied the audit.

“It is my recommendation that the Lawrence County Commissioners present a bill to SEOEMS in the amount of $301,396 and in turn SEOEMS should present bills to the other member counties, Athens and Jackson, in the amounts of $409,118 and $236,307 respectively,” the letter stated.

Boggs agreed that the county should bill the emergency service and has asked Athens County Commissioner Larry Payne, chairman of SEOEMS, to set up a meeting of the full board of SEOEMS. Payne has not responded to that request. Boggs has also asked for an opinion from the county prosecutor’s office on the legal rights of the county.

“If we have a SEOEMS board meeting and get outvoted and they don’t want to pay the invoice, does that vote supercede an auditor’s report?” Boggs asked.

Also for runs from January to June 2010, Medicare underpaid the tri-county service by about $20 a run.

“Medicare has started paying for the reimbursement,” Boggs said. “Lawrence County did the bulk of the runs and that is not reflected at the time of the audit. That is even some more money coming our way.”

In other business the commission:

• Approved a travel request for County Emergency Management Director Mike Boster;

• Heard that July 11 would be Lawrence County Fair Day when a building on the fairgrounds will be dedicated to the late George Patterson, a longtime county commissioners;

• Heard from County Engineer Doug Cade that starting today a private contractor would be replacing two bridges on Township Road 251S or Lewis Fork that would close the road through Friday. There will be emergency transportation by the contractor; and

• Approved the weekly dog warden’s report where no dogs were destroyed; two dogs were sold and three were redeemed by their owner. There were 62 dogs in custody that week.