Commissioners deal with horses, EMS contract at meeting

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With the economy continuing to struggle, the Switzerland County Commissioners heard from officials at the Switzerland County Animal Shelter at its meeting last week about the need to put policies in place regarding horses and other large animals.

Keli Gabbard from the animal shelter informed the commissioners that the shelter had been involved in protecting some horses in the county that are suspected of being the victims of neglect.

She said that the shelter had taken an interest in the welfare of the horses, and has cited the owner of the animals about the possible neglect.

Her question for the commissioners was what policies need to be established should the animal shelter need to take possession of the horses? She also wondered about how the shelter would house the animals until suitable ‘foster families’ could be found to take care of them; and – ultimately – would the county establish adoption fees and procedures for the horses, just as the county has for dogs and cats.

She said that with the state of the economy, it is a situation that could likely increase, as horse owners find it more and more difficult to care for and feed the larger animals.

County attorney Wil Goering said that he would look into the policies in place in other counties and will report back to the commissioners on his findings.

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The meeting was also attended by members of Switzerland County EMS as well as members of the community who support EMS.

When commissioner Brian Morton asked why all of the “red shirts” (EMS uniforms) where in attendance, EMS director Randy See said that Commissioner Craig Bond had requested that EMS come to the meeting in an effort to discuss the details surrounding a contract between EMS and the county for 2012.

A recent audit of the county by the State Board of Accounts resulted in a recommendation that the county visit and obtain information from counties such as Scott County in an effort to reduce the expense to the county for EMS services.

Those discussions are ongoing, and at the meeting EMS members asked about the status of the 2012 contract.

Brian Morton said that it had been decided to extend the current contract for the first four months of 2012 while both the county and EMS members explore different ways of maintaining revenues, such as a greater emphasis on collecting debts for charges for services.

A member of the audience asked if that meant that county citizens were going to be without EMS protection after the first four months of 2012, and she was assured by the commissioners that the extension was only a means of giving everyone time to sort out different options; and that both commissioners felt that there was no reason to believe that the contract would not be extended past the four months if everything continued to move forward with reducing expenses.

The EMS asked about the yearly payment that the county makes to EMS, outside of the scope of the Riverboat Revenue Sharing funds. Randy See noted that in the past the county has paid the entire 12 month contract at the beginning of the year to help EMS meet expenses early in the calendar; and asked if EMS was only going to get four months’ worth of the funds or the entire year’s payment.

The commissioners said that they would approve EMS going ahead and getting the entire year’s payment.

Discussions will continue on a contract between the county and Switzerland County EMS in future meetings, and information is still being gathered.