06/11/11 — Duplin commissioners won't cut emergency services

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Duplin commissioners won't cut emergency services

By Aaron Moore
Published in News on June 11, 2011 11:43 PM

KENANSVILLE -- After a storm of rebukes and pleas from Duplin County residents at a public hearing Monday night, the county commissioners voted not to make any cuts to Emergency Medical Services.

The commissioners had originally proposed a budget that reduced the county's seven and a half EMS sites to six, cutting 12 staff positions. After hearing from EMS employees and advocates, the commissioners agreed this isn't in the county's best interests.

"It's clear that EMS is not the place to be restricting from," Commissioner Tim Smith said.

"You're talking about life-saving decisions here," said Duplin resident Roger Davis. "There's no doubt about it. We have seen it."

With the EMS site in Rose Hill and the part-time site in Kenansville at risk of being cut, residents from around those areas complained that without those sites, ambulances might not reach them in time in an emergency.

Magnolia resident Mary Catherine Bass asked the commissioners to reconsider where they were cutting, as it would directly affect her and her neighbors.

EMS paramedic Sandra Jones also raised concerns that EMS trucks have to stand by at public events, which would limit the number of trucks able to respond to emergencies elsewhere.

"We stand by at ball games," she said. "We could have two trucks out of service standing by at the ball games, so how many trucks does that leave the county?"

After hearing public comments, Smith moved to add the seven and a half EMS sites back to the budget. The motion passed 3-2 with Commissioners Zettie Williams and Jessie Ladson opposing.

Although EMS cuts were the main topic of public discussion, citizens also voiced opposition to higher taxes.

Commissioners have sliced funding to the county museum, libraries, Services to Aging, Nutrition, Economic Development and Planning.

The budget also proposes cutting resource officer positions at James Sprunt Community College, a position at the Aging Senior Center and several vacant positions in the Health Department, the Sheriff Department, Social Services and the Tax Department.

Aldridge told the commissioners in a May work session that more cuts this year still might not prevent higher taxes next year.

"You're not going to avoid, in my opinion, a significant tax increase next year," he said.

Aldridge said the county can't afford to keep taking money from its fund balance.

"If it sounds like I'm sounding the alarm, good," Aldridge said. "We're in a position now that we don't want to be in."