2013-06-01 / News

Vote to start EMS billing in Buckeye Lake questioned

By Scott Rawdon

BUCKEYE LAKE- Village council members unanimously suspended the three-reading rule Tuesday night to adopt an ordinance to bill for EMS transports. The move came on the second reading and required unanimous consent since council member Jeryne Peterson was absent.

Buckeye Lake Village will ‘soft bill’ as do the Hebron and Millersport fire departments. That means Buckeye Lake will accept whatever it receives from Medicare, Medicaid or insurance companies for patient transports. There’s no effort to collect amounts not paid by insurance or charges for uninsured residents.

The intent is to raise additional revenue for the department. It could be the department’s only revenue in 2014 if voters again refuse to renew the department’s five mill levy.

Council member Barry Herron said he’d prefer giving the ordinance three readings, but considering “the time it takes to get the ball rolling,” he’d agree to waive the rule.

“I appreciate your understanding,” said council president Charlene Hayden to council members, adding that she’d prefer the three readings if time allowed. Hayden said Wednesday that it is appropriate for the EMS billing to start after the 30-day period it takes for the legislation to go into effect. “It is premature to assume any specific amount of annual revenue,” she said. “Whatever it generates will be more than we have now. After we have billed for six or eight months, we will be able to come up with some average amount of potential revenue. Even the average will be a guess because there is no way to predict the number of runs where billing will be possible.”

Former council member Brenda Hileman said she believed council member Arletta Ruton’s vote for the ordinance is a conflict of interest because she is a member of the fire department. Ruton was cited in the village’s last state audit for accepting ‘points’ money as a council member. She later agreed not to accept any future compensation.

“You just assured yourself a recall,” said former council member Peggy Wells, agreeing that Ruton’s vote was a conflict of interest. “You just made a big mistake passing this legislation,” she said. “You have created a financial incentive for the fire department to save runs instead of saving lives. You won’t get any money for six months anyway.”

“As for (Ruton’s) eligibility to vote on the legislation last evening, it is a moot point,” said Hayden Wednesday. “The topics of both pieces of legislation were discussed first by the safety committee and second by the finance committee and members of both committees agreed to ask council to consider passing the legislation for EMS billing and the fire levy.” All council members voted for both pieces of legislation. “Therefore, even if (Ruton) had abstained, her abstention would have been considered with the majority,” she said.

Herron said Buckeye Lake Village doesn’t have an income tax and does the best it can with what it has. “We chose to live here. We can make the community better or tear it apart. The service we provide with the money we have, we do an excellent job,” he said.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen the village get ripped apart about everything,” said Ruton, from the police to the water and fire departments. “It doesn’t matter” which department it is, she said.

“Only a handful of people are trying to tear the village down,” said Hayden.

Hileman said she was disappointed there was no public comment period during a meeting the fire department held Thursday to discuss its finances and its future. She wondered how there could be a public meeting without public input.

However, former council member Donna Thompson praised council member Clay Carroll, who hosted the Thursday meeting.

Buckeye Lake fire fighter Brandon Tucker presented council with a statement with his opinion of what a levy defeat in November would mean to the village. “Do you know the complete impact of what the services would be to the community? A defeated fire levy in November would leave this community with 100 percent volunteer fire department,” he said in his statement. His statement is reprinted in its entirety on Page 4.In other village news:

• Director of Public Works Vaughn Klingler asked council if he could create a committee to look at storm water drainage and water quality within the village. Local volunteers would staff the committee, which would meet monthly. “Even if it appears to be work, we’ll have fun doing it,” he said. “It’s going to help Buckeye Lake.” Council members accepted his recommendation.

Klingler said he’d like people to photograph areas of standing water in the village following rainstorms as proof of drainage issues when the village applies for grants to help with the problem. He asked that the photos be dated. He said anyone wanting to be part of the committee should contact the Village Offices.

• Hayden said June 15 is open Cranberry Bog day. “If you know of anyone who would like to visit the bog, have them go to the North Shore State Park on that Saturday,” she said. No reservations are required and a $5 donation is requested.

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