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Ambulance fee deadline extended

By Staff | Sep 29, 2014

Many Jefferson County residents who received their new ambulance fee statement in the mail recently were concerned over how the fee will be used and exactly how the fee came about. In an effort to address concerns, the County Commission staff has posted a letter to address some of these questions.

The letter explains that the fee is necessary because the volunteer efforts of fire and rescue personnel are at an all-time low in the county and paid personnel must be on hand to provide emergency medical service.

“All monies received from the ambulance fee will go toward hiring additional career staff,” the letter states. All of the new hires will be firefighter EMTs or firefighter paramedics, the letter goes on to explained, allowing new hires to perform both fire and rescue services. Additional staffers will be strategically placed around the county where they will serve the most good, the information states.

In addition to the low number of volunteers, and perhaps a larger reason for the fee, is the fact that the County Commission is unable to fund emergency services from their general budget. The fire and rescue groups received significant cuts during the previous budget session. The institution of the fee will reduce the need for county dollar allocations.

Facts given in the informational letter indicate that the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency, where career staff is housed, operates currently with a budget of $1,447,562 with 89 percent of that amount going to salaries. Seven fire companies in the county receive a combined contribution of $373,625.

The ambulance fee is expected to generate approximately $600,000 in revenue, all going to the career staffers for salaries, benefits and training.

The fee, voted on by the County Commission in May 2014, after several years of discussion and public hearings, is set at $40 per residential household and $85 per commercial unit per year. The fee can be reduced to $20 per year with an approved homestead exemption through the Assessor’s office for those at or above age 65 or meeting financial requirements.

The fee, according to statements mailed to county residents and businesses, were due to the County Commission office by Sept. 30. However, the Commission has extended the date to Oct. 31. Fees paid before that time will not be assessed a penalty as indicated on the billing statement. The penalty will kick in after Oct. 31 if payment is not made.

Anyone wishing to view the complete ordinance establishing the fee may do so at www.jeffersoncountywv.org and click on the “Ambulance Fee” tab.