County looks to repair damaged ambulance

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By The Staff

What do you get when you cross a county ambulance with a cow? How about damage that will cost about $4,000 in parts and $1,000 in labor? Washington County EMS truck number 5 struck a cow in the road early last week while making a run. In an effort to get the vehicle back in service, EMS director Mark Hale asked the Washington County Fiscal Court if there was a way to take parts from a surplus ambulance and repair the damaged truck.

“The damaged ambulance is a Ford F450, but we have a surplus F350 that we're just going to swap front ends with,” said Hale. “It's mostly sheet metal damage and the engines are the same, so we can pretty much replace any damaged parts with ones from the surplus ambulance.”

Instead of costing $5,000 for the repairs, using the spare parts means the county will only have to pay about $1,200 to $1,500 for labor.

“EMS 2 is an ambulance that was having transmission problems and the rear end was going out on it,” said Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles. “It's not like we can get a lot of money out of it, so we took it to the shop along with the damaged vehicle to swap some parts. The ambulance sustained quite a bit of damage, the grill is completely gone, the radiator was bowed back in, it's a mess. Once the parts are swapped, we'll still have an ambulance that we can sell for scrap, which is probably going to bring more than what we could get for it selling it as surplus. We just need the court's approval to do this.”

Magistrate Billy Riney made a motion to allow the switch with a second by magistrate Benjamin Settles. The court voted unanimously to approve the motion.

One mystery that the county has not solved is where the cows on the road came from. No homeowners in the area have reported missing cattle.

“State policemen went to five different residences that night and brought one farmer to the scene, but it wasn't one of his,” Settles added. “The accident happened in an area where there were no fences and the cows were on the road. Mark called me and we went up there, but we couldn't find the rest of the cows, they disappeared.”

In other businesses

• The county has been instructed by the state transportation department to submit 100 percent of the cost of cleaning up debris caused by last winter's ice storm. The county was previously eligible for an 87 percent reimbursement through the state and FEMA, but has since been told that work performed by county workers can be considered contracted work and may qualify for a full reimbursement.

“We were first told that we would get 75 percent from FEMA and 12 percent from the state,” said Settles. “Then the state said to submit 100 percent because we are considered a contractor.”

Originally, the county submitted a total of $128,159.98, of which 87 percent would be reimbursed, or $111,499.18. When the state hired outside contractors to clean up debris, many did not live up to their contracts, including the one originally assigned to Washington County. Since the county was left to clean up their own debris, essentially the state hired the county road department to clean up storm debris and thus the county is eligible to receive full man hours instead of just overtime. The new amount, including pay for those regular hours, is $200,769.52, almost double what the county would have originally received.

“Going through FEMA, we could only bill for overtime,” said Kevin Devine, the director of the Washington County Office of Emergency Management. “But by doing it as a contractor through the state, we can also bill for regular time, so that raised our reimbursement tremendously.”

The 100 percent reimbursement will be paid by the state, and Devine said the state may seek the 75 percent reimbursement directly from FEMA.

• Washington County Solid Waste Coordinator George Ann Palmer announced that an agreement has been reached concerning bulky item drop-off at the county landfill. A committee of Palmer, Settles and magistrates Hal B. Goode and Greg Simms held lengthy discussions about what to do about out-of-county residents and CD&D disposal at the transfer station.

“We do realize that we need to do a better job at monitoring the loads,” said Settles. “We probably ought to start having a monthly report to the court on the total usage and how many people are coming in, the number of loads and what they're bringing in. After having said all of that, the committee would like to recommend that we continue to charge Monday through Friday, with free bulky item drop-off for Washington County residents only on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Settles said the topic will be reviewed in March 2010 because very few drop-offs take place during the winter months.

Settles added, “We're not in the position to offer too many things for free unless we're going to start charging somewhere else, and we certainly don't want to do that. I think we all realize the tremendous expense that the spring cleanup costs the county and the taxpayers of this county. But we also realize that it's a great service, so if we can do something such as leaving it open for a few months in the spring, then it wouldn't cost nearly as much as running the trucks and the men all over the county. We need to look at this on a long-term basis.”

The next fiscal court meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., Nov. 9.