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County to protest workers comp decision

The county will fight an assertion by the state workers’ compensation bureau that its new EMS should be penalized for past claims filed by employees of the now defunct EMS.

In January the county started the Lawrence Emergency Medical Service after the dissolution of the tri-county Southeast Ohio Emergency Medical Service, whose employees operated in Lawrence, Jackson and Athens counties.

Earlier this month the commissioners received a letter from an underwriter for the workers’ comp stating the past claims’ history of SEOEMS employees would be transferred to the Lawrence operation.

“We recently learned that you purchased a portion of another employer’s business operation,” the letter from Tom Forbes states. “Where a legal entity succeeds in the operation of a portion of a business of one or more legal entities having an established coverage … the successor’s rate shall be based on the predecessor’s experience within the most recent experience period.”

At its Thursday meeting Commissioner Les Boggs disputed the contention that the Lawrence EMS is a continuation of SEOEMS or that the county agency purchased any part of the former EMS.

“To consider it a continuation of SEOEMS is a fallacy,” Boggs said. “We have different billing numbers and a different location. Except that some of the people from SEOEMS were hired, it is a totally new business.”

Determining the county’s rate from SEOEMS history “is highway robbery,” Boggs said. “We will protest it to the highest level.”

Boggs said he believes by showing the workers’ comp underwriters how the county EMS is a separate and distinct agency they will rescind their actions.

“If that protest will not work, we will take it to the farthest limit,” he said. “We are not going to be penalized for something we had nothing to do with.”

Commissioners also passed a resolution of support for a recent bond issuance by Gallia County Commissioners. The bonds, not to exceed $175 million, will go mainly toward refinancing projects by Holzer Clinic and Holzer Health Systems.

The commissioners’ support was needed because Holzer operates a clinic in the county. At their meeting a week ago a representative from Peck, Shaffer had sought the resolution from the commissioners.

However, the commission declined to act then, sending the matter to the county prosecutor for review.

After the prosecutor’s opinion stated there would be no financial liability for the county if Holzer defaulted, the commissioners unanimously passed the resolution.

In other action the commissioners:

• Received a request from the county fair board to be the borrowing agent for the proposed new livestock barn and arena planned for the fairgrounds;

• Partially funded a request by Brett Looney, director of the county juvenile center. Looney has wanted an additional appropriation of $105,000. The commission approved $50,000;

• Authorized their administrator to find interest rates for a $3 million bond issue for storm-related repairs, of which $1.5 million will be reimbursed by the state and the remainder by the engineer’s office;

• Received the weekly dog warden’s report where seven dogs were sold, two were redeemed by owners and 38 were destroyed. There are 101 dogs in custody this week.