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County announces their latest EMS funding resolution

Mar. 26—In the ongoing conflict of the Somerset-Pulaski County EMS funding issues and 'war of words' between the Somerset City Council and the Pulaski County Fiscal Court, the county presented their latest funding offer — which was the same financial obligations as they had presented on March 12, with some slightly modified stipulations.

The county has agreed to increase their EMS funding from $1.3 million (per year) to $1.45 million in 2025, and increase to $1.6 million funding in 2026, and the funding will increase 2.5% annually from 2027 to 2034.

In light of the county's increased funding to EMS, they made these stipulations:

* That a Board of Directors be established consisting of the Mayor of the City of Somerset, the Pulaski County Judge-Executive, two Somerset Council members, two Pulaski County Magistrates, the Pulaski County Treasurer, the City of Somerset Chief Financial Officer and one Paramedic and one EMT. The City of Somerset would continue as the employer of the Somerset/Pulaski County EMS employees.

* That a qualified independent consultant or firm be retained by the Board to assist the Board in developing a strategic plan to improve the future operations/efficiency of EMS, with Fiscal Court bearing that cost.

* That a detailed financial report be provided on a monthly basis to Fiscal Court and the Somerset City Council.

* In the event it is determined by either entity that the agreement is not in the best interest of that entity, and in order to provide sufficient time to ensure EMS services are not interrupted, the agreement can be terminated by either entity upon 12 months advance written notice from the terminating entity to the non-terminating entity.

On March 18, the Somerset City Council approved a resolution in which the city would pull out of the EMS interlocal agreement with the county, leaving the administration of the emergency medical service solely under Fiscal Court. Somerset Mayor Alan Keck said that the resolution was a reaction to comments made by county magistrates and County Judge-Executive Marshall Todd over the past few weeks indicating that they thought county government would be better at running the department.

Keck read out loud a quote from Todd from the Fiscal Court's previous meeting. That quote was: "We feel that the emergency funding situation the City of Somerset finds itself in regarding EMS is not so much a crisis of funding as it is a mismanagement of resources and focus."

Keck responded, "Fiscal Court has, through these comments and others, ... sent a strong signal to me that they would rather run it. I don't believe that they can run it without us contributing and provide the level of care that we have come to expect."

However on Tuesday, Todd was more understanding of the city's role in managing the local EMS and asked for a more peaceful resolution between the two local government entities.

"In light of the vote by the Somerset City Council on March 18, regarding the Somerset-Pulaski County EMS, and in an effort to resolve ongoing and future EMS funding issues, we would like to reiterate and clarify the offer that we made on March 12 during the Fiscal Court meeting," Todd stated on Tuesday. "Our main priority is to reach an agreement as quickly as possible so that our EMS personnel can remain secure in their future, and our community can remain confident that the outstanding level of services they have received in the past will continue in the future."

"We (the Fiscal Court) want to say that we realize what a challenging issue EMS has been for both entities, both financially and operationally, for quite some time," Todd said in a prepared statement. "There are many moving and complicated parts to managing an emergency medical services organization and the County looks forward to taking a more active role with the City in that endeavor going forward. In conclusion, we would like to thank the Mayor and City Council for their consideration of this proposal, and the renewed spirit of optimism that working together provides to the citizens of our community."

Back on Feb. 27, Pulaski County Fourth District Magistrate Mark Ranshaw responded to the city's initial EMS increased funding request by reading a statement in Fiscal Court which called the city's position on EMS funding "misinformation" and "propaganda."

Ranshaw was quoted as saying, "I feel the best thing for EMS in the long run would be for the city to accept the available funds we have to offer. I believe anything else would be a major problem for this county as a whole and the last thing I would want ... is seeing unneeded deaths because we have to split EMS because of the mayor and some city council members feeling like they need to spread misinformation (propaganda) about the county not doing our fair share. It could cost every city and county resident dearly."

Three days later via a social media post, City Attorney John Adams responded to Ranshaw's Feb. 27 statement by saying, "Pulaski County Kentucky Fiscal Court meeting raises a question of "equity" and "fairness" that needs to be examined. In addition, Fiscal Court wants to make political pawns out of a dedicated group of first responders by publicly airing funding disagreements."

In that same statement, Adams went on to explain why increased county EMS funding was needed.

The City of Somerset has operated Somerset-Pulaski County EMS, a countywide service, because of the "close" relationship of professional fire services to EMS. Since 2014, County Government has agreed to pay $1.3 million per year to offset the continual operating losses of the service. Over the last five years (or more) the losses of the service range from $500,000 to over a million dollars per year above those cost born by the county. The City has eaten those additional costs (losses) for a countywide service.

Contact Steve Cornelius at scornelius@somerset-kentucky.com.