City, county officials talk shared department budget
The Fredericksburg City Council and Gillespie County Commissioners Court held a joint meeting to discuss consolidated operations and the proposed budget for 2019.
The city has budgeted $1.3 million for the fire department budget in fiscal year 2019.
The city is looking to create three additional positions for paramedics/firefighter personnel.
Fredericksburg Fire Department Chief Lynn Bizzell reported the department will respond to nearly 3,000 calls this year. Timing and making sure there is enough manpower to cover the calls is critical, he said.
“It continues to be very busy. EMS-wise, when we respond to calls, many times we have to take critical patients and transfers outside of our county,” Bizzell said. “We are gone sometimes three to four and a half hours. So, we are down to one ambulance in the county.”
Bizzell said an issue they are having now is whether there are enough ambulances available and enough people to staff them when there is an emergency.
Currently, there are two firefighter/medical personnel assigned to the engines. When there is a structure fire or medical emergency, they have to wait for a third person to arrive to help respond.
“I lose a little bit of sleep over it every night because if someone isn’t here, that increases the time it takes for us to get to the scene to help,” Bizzell said.
City council member Jerry Luckenbach asked how many of those annual calls are city and county.
Bizzell said there are many more EMS calls than fire calls because EMS responds countywide.
City Manager Kent Myers said if the city hired three more people that would place one more person on each shift and it would eliminate a delay in emergency response time.
The city has recommended a budget of $2.6 million for the Emergency Medical Services Department in 2019. The net EMS fund will be $1.091 million for the year.
“It’s been a number of years since EMS has seen an increase in fees, and we did a survey to see how EMS fees compare to other cities and counties. Based upon that survey, we recommended to the council that we go up on those fees,” Myers said.
Currently, EMS does not charge patients for the medications they administer when needed.
With the rising costs of medications that EMS carries, the department may begin to charge for the medicines they administer to patients on board.
“In an effort to increase our revenues moving forward, it has been seven years since we looked at our fees,” Bizzell said. “Charging for our medications is one idea, as they have tripled in price over the last year. There is a program we want to tap into for uninsured patients and Medicaid patients that provides federal funding that could potentially bring us about $40,000 a year.”
EMS department wants to get a control of the system to keep better track of the medication and the costs down.
They are looking into a medication storage unit that serves as a vending machine, so to speak, that will keep medications in one place and requires entry of a code to obtain them.
City Animal Shelter
The proposed budget for the animal shelter is $45,000.
The new shelter opened in September 2017 and operating expenses of the animal shelter have seen an increase of $20,000.
Approximately, one-third of the animals in the shelter are coming from the county and the number is expected to grow.
“This service has never been covered by an inter-local agreement and this is something we need to talk about how we want to move forward in providing county residents this free service,” Myers said.
It was reported by Fredericksburg Police Chief Steve Wetz that the shelter has taken in 390 animals since last October.
“Forty-four percent of the animals that are brought in to the shelter are from outside the city limits,” Wetz said.
Over 90 animals have been adopted and 117 have been returned to their owners city- and county-wide.