Published: Nov 27, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Nov 27, 2012 05:39 PM
APEX - The town plans to maintain control of its emergency medical services department instead of handing it over to Wake County.
The county has refused to pay for a chief and administrative assistant for Apex EMS next year, but the Town Council agreed to pay an extra $143,000 to fund the positions while it continues negotiations with the county.
Wake has been trying for the past year to absorb the town-run department into the nearly countywide system.
With more town money in place, Apex will move forward to find a replacement for current EMS Chief Nicky Winstead, who is retiring. The county funding for the position runs out June 30.
“We’re hoping that we will get funding restored from the county,” said Councilman Gene Schulze. “But there is some urgency with this. We’re trying to work it out, but time is not on our side.”
Wake County collects revenue on behalf of Apex but now refuses to pay for a chief and administrative assistant because the positions aren’t cost effective, according to County Manager David Cooke.
Cooke said it would be cheaper to take over the nine-member department instead of funding it as a separate agency. Under the county’s authority, he said, the department wouldn’t need a chief or administrative assistant.
Schulze, a former emergency medical technician, has been a strong supporter of Apex retaining its EMS system.
Schulze said it’s important to have an Apex ambulance at high school football games and special town events, which the council said would be unlikely under the county system.
Councilman Lance Olive took issue with the county’s tactics.
“If there comes a day where we do decide we want to turn (our EMS) over to the county, it’s because it’s best for Apex, not because of financial arm-twisting,” Olive said.
Apex took over the nonprofit agency in 2009. Since then, this is the county’s third effort to get the town to pay more money. In 2010, Wake requested and received $52,000 from Apex for EMS billing.
Last year, the county asked for $110,000 in shared-services costs for radios, systemwide personnel and dispatch services. Instead of paying the money, the county and the town worked out a deal in which Wake began collecting user fees for the department.
Apex Councilman Bill Jensen cast the sole dissenting vote for funding the positions. He said the county already has a lot of control over EMS.
“The only thing Apex is buying for the $140,000 is the Apex name on the side of the EMS trucks,” Jensen said. “Nothing else.”
Jensen, a Democrat, said it didn’t make sense financially to spend the extra money.
“It seems interesting that the four Republicans on the council are willing to waste town money when they claim to be fiscal conservatives,” he said.