Rescue squad in financial hole

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2022

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The Charlotte County Rescue Squad (CCRS) has found itself in a financial hole and in hot water with the county board of supervisors (BOS).

CCRS Captain Bill Mayhew addressed the board on Monday night, Feb. 14, asking for $50,000 to $80,000 in additional funding.

Mayhew said that waiting on payments from Medicare and Medicaid and inflation has put the squad in a bind.

“Fuel has gone up over 60%,” Mayhew said. “Motor oil has gone up, and even a box of gloves has gone up.”

According to documents from CCRS provided to the BOS, the squad’s 2021 operating budget was listed at $963,900.00 with over $1 million in expenses. Included in their budget was over $200,000 in a PPP Loan.

Documents show the squad in the red for over $200,000.

Before Mayhew could finish his presentation, Supervisor Butch Hamlett wasted no time asking Mayhew how much the squad was paying in salaries. According to Mayhew, to run three crews a day, five days a week and two crews on the weekend, CCRS spends $12,600 a week on salaries with members working anywhere from 48 to 60 hours a week.

“Does anybody have any oversight on how much they are working,” Hamlett asked?

Though Mayhew never got the chance to answer Hamlett’s question, he said the squad was short-staffed.

“So, y’all been spending more than you really have?” Hamlett questioned. “I just have a whole lot of questions about your budget sheet. To me, there is no oversight. If the county’s operating budget were like this, the citizens would have us by our toenails… y’all need to do something about management.” Hamlett went on to say he thought it was time for the board to take over and be the board of directors and set some parameters.

“The county can’t afford, you know, $60,000 a month, which is what you want,” Hamlett said. “We don’t have the money, and if we pay you that and continue to pay that, we’d have to raise the taxes probably 10 cents.”

According to Mayhew, CCRS currently has over $200,000 in accounts receivable they are waiting to receive.

“If this board approves giving you additional funding, is your organization open to oversight from this board,” said Supervisor Hazel Smith. “Are you willing to open your books and let us see how many hours of overtime is being paid?”

Mayhew agreed.

Chairman Gary Walker spoke up to offer a solution.

“Obviously, this is a very serious situation for the people of Charlotte County and the taxpayers and certainly for the volunteers and people doing the work,” Walker said. “You know how much we appreciate all that y’all do, and it’s no doubt that we’d be in terrible shape without all the work being done. With that, I would like to see the board authorize our public service committee to authorize the funds necessary to ensure the people of Charlotte County have rescue service.”

Walker also suggested writing up an oversight agreement.

“This is a short-term thing we need to get over right now,” Walker said.

In the end, the board voted 6 to 1, with Hamlett voting no to fund CCRS $50,000. “It’s a short-term Band-Aid, but we’ve got to start somewhere,” Walker said.