The Upson County Board of Commissioners have been hard at work on the 2014 budget this past week, holding four work session meetings to go over each department’s requested finances. Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston stated the board needed to cut at least $600,000 from the upcoming budget; last year’s total budget was $13,815,815. The board noted each department’s budget will appear to be substantially higher than last year because the health insurance, retirement and payroll taxes have been broken down into each department instead of placing the items as a lump sum in the general fund for the entire county.
The board made preliminary cuts through each department; however they will be able to cut over $300,000 at one time if they decide to change ambulance services for the county, which they are considering. Currently, Upson County contracts with Upson County Ambulance Service (a subsidiary of Upson Regional Medical Center) for $616,000 a year; where, per URMC, the contract for the past five years has included a five percent rate increase each year. Blackston told the board that Mid Georgia Ambulance (MGA) has stated they will contract with the county for $300,000 a year with no increase. He continued stating MGA has offered to keep three full time ambulances in Upson County 24 hours a day (currently there are three ambulances during the day and two at night), to lease the EMS facility from the hospital, purchase the equipment and hire the employees who currently work for Upson County Ambulance Service.
“I have called about 10 or 11 different counties and towns-Chattahoochee, Muscogee, Crawford, Lamar- everyone has had nothing but wonderful comments to make on them,” said Blackston in reference to MGA. He also stated he had inquired with the counties if MGA did in fact hire on the existing employees and they did.
Commissioner Ralph Ellington agreed that he had heard nothing but good things as well. He also noted that he felt the county needed to pursue to contract with MGA because they can simply not afford the price of using Upson County Ambulance Service.
Blackston told the board he had spoken with URMC CEO David Castleberry about the matter and Castleberry stated he understood their reason of looking into another ambulance service. In a written statement, Castleberry said, “The important part of this is making sure Upson County has a quality ambulance service, and we continue to work with Commissioner Blackston on a solution to ensure quality ambulance service for our residents.”
Each of the commissioners indicated they were in favor of looking into changing the ambulance service based on the reason of affordability. However, no official decision has been made as of press time.