McKenzie declines VCAD board seat

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nevada Daily Mail

James McKenzie's absence at the beginning of the Vernon County Ambulance District board meeting was immediately addressed by chairperson Mark Humphrey who announced that McKenzie had rescinded his acceptance of the board position two hours before the start of the meeting.

"I hereby rescind my acceptance to the Board position in which I was elected. New employment in the Kansas City area will prevent me from maintaining the required 'residency' in Vernon County. It is also not clear if my serving would pose a potential violation off the Missouri Ethics Conflict of Interest (Section 105.454, RSMo.) and therefore I am not comfortable with serving at this time," McKenzie said in a letter to the board Thursday afternoon.

In anticipation of a larger than normal audience, Thursday's meeting was changed from the normal location in VCAD's training room to the much larger apparatus bay where the ambulances park. "This is the most participation we've had," board member Chris Mason said. In addition to the normal attendees, on duty VCAD personnel, and representatives from the media, 12 members of the public attended the meeting.

A notable presence was two Nevada Police Department officers and one deputy sheriff. Humphrey said the board had been asked to have a law enforcement presence at the meeting for everyone's benefit. "Things are less likely to escalate with their presence." Humphrey said of the officers at the meeting.

With McKenzie's rejection, the board is left to fill the seat for subdistrict five. The board voted to fill the position in a manner similar to Nancy Jeffries seat that was filled by Coeta Smith. VCAD will solicit sealed letters from interested parties that reside within the subdistrict to be submitted before the next board meeting.

VCAD has six subdistricts; three within the Nevada city limits and three rural subdistricts. Mason explained that the open seat's district is roughly Cedar Street to the east city limits, and Atlantic Street to the south city limits.

Dan Dilly asked the board if there is a statute regarding how long the board has to fill the vacancy. Humphrey said that board has 60 days to find a candidate to fill the seat or the county will be required to find a candidate for the vacancy. Mason said that the statute does not specify how the board must go about filling the vacancy.

During the public participation portion of the meeting, Dilly told the board that he planned to start a petition to have VCAD audited by the state of Missouri. Dilly said he asked at the January board meeting that the state auditors office get involved with VCAD financials. He said that the signatures of 863 registered voters were required before the petition could be submitted.

Dilly said Friday that he is holding a public meeting Monday at 7 p.m., in the Franklin P. Norman City/County Community Center to organize a petition audit campaign. He wants the state auditor to look at the Vernon County Ambulance District's last fiscal year.

"I know the board is handcuffed but a little information would be nice," Dilly said.

Humphrey replied, "that's exactly what we want but we have guidelines to follow."

Humphrey said that they had previously talked about how much a state audit would cost VCAD. According to Mason, Dilly had initially said the cost would be about $12,000 but had revised figures of $24,000 to $40,000. Humphrey said that VCAD had been told the audit could cost up to $40,000.

Following the treasurer's report, Mason explained to the audience that collecting payment on calls for service can take several months. Humphrey reported that VCAD just started receiving the first payments for services billed in January.

With the dissolution of Western Missouri 911 at the end of May, the board discussed and voted to accept the proposed contract with Vernon County for dispatch services. Mason said that the contract was very similar with the difference being that Vernon County requested monthly payments instead of the current quarterly payments going to Western Missouri 911. A member of the audience asked if there was a board to oversee the dispatch operations for the county to which Mason replied, "No, it's all under the sheriff's office."

There was extensive discussion between the board and the audience regarding Specialized Billing, the contractor that handles accounts receivable for VCAD.

Humphrey said that with itemized billing, "income has gone up," despite VCAD paying the contractor 8 percent of the money they collect. In contrast with VCAD's previously used base rate plus mileage form of billing in-house, to the itemized billing used by Specialized Billing, interim director Leland Splitter reported that VCAD has seen an average increase in monthly revenue by approximately $13,000. The average collected by Specialized Billing for the first quarter 2016 was $93,000 per month. Humphrey said there was an additional $63,000 in outstanding bills from October and November that may still be collected.

In further discussion, Splitter said that the only way VCAD gets paid is if they transport a patient. Even then, Medicare reduces each bill submitted to them by 45 percent before considering paying it, and then may not pay the full amount. To demonstrate the difficulties in collecting on calls for service, Splitter explained that VCAD had recently responded to a patient in cardiac arrest and the Veteran's Administration rejected the entire bill saying that it was not a pre-scheduled event.

Splitter reported that Rescue 1 has been paid off and Medic 5 will be paid off in April 2017.

In April, VCAD answered 105 emergency calls in Vernon County, and performed 60 transfers. Under non-transport calls, there were 54 refusals of care, 14 lift assists, three community events, and one fire stand by. Totals runs for 2016 as of April 30 were 910.

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