Beaufort Co. commissioners disagree on how much EMS will cost taxpayers

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Commissioners are at odds in Beaufort County about how changes and upgrades to EMS services will impact taxes.

During the November meeting, commissioners voted 6 to 1 to allot more than $200,000 to pay for extra paramedics and units in order to provide better coverage across the county. However, Hood Richardson believes that number will quickly rise.

“About $2 million a year of increased taxes, minimum, for next year,” he said.

Richardson said that number may climb to above $5 million in the future as the plan unfolds. He argued paramedics aren’t needed across the county.

“I’m really concerned that the public is being sold on a bill of goods about what they’re going to get for $5 million,” Richardson said.

However, according to John Flemming, the county’s EMS director, paramedics are needed for around 40 percent of calls countywide. That figure doesn’t include calls for things like car accidents and general sickness.

Commissioners in favor of expanding care, like Ron Buzzeo, said all residents deserve the best healthcare they can get.

“Paramedic service will increase your chances of survival, and that’s what we want to bring to this county,” he said.

Buzzeo will serve on a committee to look at ways to pay for the upgrades. He offered several models, including asking Vidant to help pay for the services to reduce their ER intake, providing after care services, using existing EMS taxes, and establishing centralized billing.

Part of the expansion would put quick response vehicles (QRV) in Pantego and Blounts Creek, two areas that aren’t currently served by paramedics. By doing this, the wait time for a paramedic would be cut in half.

“You have what’s called the golden hour. With cardiac arrest, you know the first 10 minutes are the most important,” said Adam Culbertson, a paramedic with Chocowinity EMS, just one unit who would benefit from the QRVs.

Currently, if there’s a paramedic call in Blounts Creek, Chocowinity EMS must respond.

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