May 20, 2014

This wasn't the first time Patrick Gray had approached the Carroll County Supervisors.

Three months ago, the Carroll County Ambulance Service director outlined several budget requests for the board, including a full-time bookkeeper position and the use of the service's car to drive to and from home so that he could respond to calls in the evening. At the time, the board turned down Gray's petition.

On Monday, he returned before the supervisors to repeat those two requests.

"It seemed to be a 180 of our actions during the budget process only 90 days ago," Board of Supervisors member Mark Beardmore said of Gray's repeated requests. "No additional information was provided or validation necessary to change my mind."

Although Beardmore wasn't swayed, the other four supervisors voted to allow Gray to hire a full-time bookkeeper starting July 1 - but they reiterated that he could not use the ambulance service's car to drive to and from home.

The office is currently staffed by Gray and a part-time bookkeeper, who works some evening hours. However, the office is closed on average 15 hours a week and is behind on billing and other work - in part because Gray responds to more ambulance calls than previous directors. Gray also attributed the uptick in paperwork to recent changes in insurance procedures prompted by the Affordable Care Act, as well as the fact that "baby boomers" are getting older, increasing patient volume quickly.

But Beardmore, who serves on an ambulance advisory board that meets once a month, said he doesn't think a full-time bookkeeper is the solution.

"It just hasn't been the practice in years past for the ambulance director to go out and respond to as many calls as Pat is choosing to," he said. "I'm not trying to discount his work or value in making those calls, but if you've only got a 40-hour week and you're responding to a number of calls, eating into an eight-hour day, you're less available to do work that position is charged with - billing."

The part-time employee's wage is $14.35 an hour, and the wage and benefits for the full-time employee will be finalized July 1.

The supervisors tabled Gray's request to use the ambulance service's car, a retired sheriff car equipped with lights, sirens and a radio to help with evening calls, although they did agree he could turn in mileage for calls he responds to in his personal vehicle.

The ambulance service has 11 full-time employees when fully staffed. Right now, it's down one person, although a new employee will start June 1, Gray said. He also oversees between 75 and 100 first responders throughout the county, many of whom are volunteers and some of whom are paid by their cities. The director emphasized that he responds to evening calls only when the service is particularly busy, and that he doesn't clock in for them.

"This is on my time," he said during the Monday supervisors meeting. "That's the way I want to run the service; I want to be involved. The whole thing is about patient priority."

But Beardmore reiterated that the evening calls aren't required.

"Particularly with taking calls from home, it's never been part of (Gray's) job description to do that," Beardmore said. "He's choosing to do that. I don't see it's the county's responsibility to support his choice."