Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Kenton weighs tax for medics

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - Although some Kenton County fire chiefs have proposed putting a special tax for paramedic service before voters this November, nothing's been decided, a top county official said Tuesday.

"There has been no decision to go on the ballot at this time, the emphasis being on 'at this time,'" Deputy Kenton County judge-executive Scott Kimmich said.

Kimmich made his comments after Kenton County Fiscal Court authorized him to renegotiate TransCare's proposal for countywide paramedic service now that Covington has dropped out.

TransCare, a nonprofit organization owned by St. Elizabeth and St. Luke hospitals, responds to all life-threatening calls - known as advanced life support - in Kenton County. It receives no tax money and relies on subscription drives for funding. Unlike other emergency personnel, paramedics can administer drugs and use a manual defibrillator.

Recently, TransCare was the sole bidder to provide paramedic service countywide. Each Kenton County city was to reimburse the county to use the service.

The Fiscal Court sought bids for advanced life-support service after TransCare said it was losing money and couldn't keep providing the service to the county's 15 fire districts for free.

The situation was complicated by Covington's announcement last week that it plans to get into the paramedic business. That surprised county officials, who had bid the service with the expectation that Covington would be among the participants.

Sam Grippa, president and CEO of TransCare, said he expects to share revised costs for participating cities with a special committee of the Kenton County Mayor's Group on Friday.

Even with Kenton County paying the first 25 percent, as originally proposed, the cost of countywide paramedic service would still amount to thousands of dollars for participating cities, including many that can ill afford it, members of the countywide advanced life support committee said.


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