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Garner EMS calls Wake County for assistance

Officials with Garner EMS & Rescue Squad are making a 911 call to Wake County to rescue the financially strapped EMS system.

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GARNER, N.C. — Officials with Garner EMS & Rescue Squad are making a 911 call to Wake County to rescue the financially strapped EMS system.

Expenses have outpaced revenue at Garner EMS for several months, officials have said. The nonprofit agency, which is overseen by an independent board of directors, laid off one employee last fall and has been trying to cut expenses to remain operational.

In a statement released late Wednesday, Garner EMS Chief Bill Frederick said the board decided to allow Wake County EMS to assume control of its paramedic division as of May 31.

A formal request is expected to be made by the end of the week.

Frederick said that the EMS division depends entirely on billings for revenue and because of the economic climate, is not in a position to ensure that cash flow will be maintained to make payroll and pay off debt over the long run.

"Operating an agency from week to week and not knowing the financial condition is a very stressful way to run a business – and especially not the best situation for an emergency services provider," he said in a statement.

Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams said the financial issues had nothing to do with missing money from the city's volunteer fire department in which a routine audit uncovered nearly $400,000 missing from the fire department's accounts.

"The SBI is on top of that and has promised some closure on that in the not-too-distant future. This, though, is a little bit of a different situation," he said. "To me, it was a misappropriation of business practices."

The Wake County Board of Commissioners was prepared to shift $318,177 to the Wake County EMS and create nine paramedic and nine emergency medical technician positions two weeks ago to assume control of Garner EMS.

But agency officials asked commissioners to pull the item from their agenda, saying they had enough money to meet short-term needs.

Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley said the board still has to vote on the request. It's next meeting is May 3.

"I think it is a good idea if it's what is required to continue this essential service," he said, adding that it appears that if the county takes over, continued revenue would be enough to cover Garner EMS's operating costs.

"Everyone agreed that the most financially thing to do would be for the county to take over."

Wake County EMS Director Dr. Brent Myers said the move should be seamless and not cause any disruptions in service.

"From a street perspective, for the citizens that call 911, there will be a transparent change. They won't notice anything," Myers said.

Garner EMS operates three full-time ambulances at an annual cost of about $1.2 million. During the first two months of 2010, the agency responded to more than 1,000 calls.

Myers said he does not expect any layoffs.

"Every full-time employee there will have a job offer with the Wake County EMS division, no doubt about it," he said.



Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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