Early Friday morning, officials with the Madison County Rescue Squad released a statement via Facebook announcing the decision by the Madison County Fiscal Court to “withdraw the authority to operate” rescue squad services beginning of Feb. 12.
“This decision was recommended by Madison County Emergency Management Director Dustin Heiser and approved by Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor,” the rescue squad’s release states. “Kentucky law (KRS 39f) requires that we maintain formal affiliation with the county government in order to provide rescue services, thus we will be discontinuing all rescue services as of midnight on that date.”
In a separate release from the county judge/executive’s office, county officials said this was a decision to simply not renew the annual contract for rescue services.
“This decision was made after careful deliberation and review of a variety of factors including concerns over possible litigation, financial oversight, feedback from citizens, and on-scene safety concerns involving Madison County Rescue Squad, Inc.,” Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor said in the release. “In addition, feedback and input from members of the emergency response community both within Madison County Government and with our partnering emergency response agencies led to this decision.”
After 45 years of volunteer service, Captain Robert Mink received the letter from the county on Jan. 6, 2020, which terminated the affiliation agreement between the county fiscal court, the county Emergency Management Agency and the rescue squad.
In the letter signed by Taylor and sent to the rescue squad, it states the services provided by the rescue squad will now be taken over by the county fire department and “mutual aid agreements.”
The letter reads, “The Madison County Emergency Management Agency is hereby notifying you that the affiliation agreement between your organization and those listed above will terminate effective February 12, 2020. The services provided by your organization will be provided by the Madison County Fire Department and through mutual aid agreements. Madison County Rescue Squad lnc. will have 30 days after February 12th to turn in all property belonging to Madison County Fiscal Court. All equipment purchased in whole or in part with rescue aid funds must adhere to KRS 39F.140(5). The Madison County Emergency Management Agency thank you for your years of dedicated service to the citizens of Madison County.”
According to the rescue squad, they never received reasoning for the dissolution of their agreement and their request for reconsideration was denied by the judge.
“We have offered on numerous occasions to meet with Director Heiser and/or Judge Executive Taylor if they had any questions or concerns about our operations but neither held any discussions with us prior to making this decision, we simply received a letter in the mail,” the squad’s statement read. “We know that we have consistently provided professional emergency and public safety service to the citizens of the county and that we have consistently met the standards established by state law for rescue squads.”
The rescue squad said they know the decision was not a cost saving for the county since the organization had offered to forego the $16,000 received annually by the county.
The rescue squad said, with the county’s budget crisis, it would seem that volunteer agencies would be a great necessity.
“We strongly disagree with the decision to withdraw our affiliation with the county but we will work to ensure an orderly transition of services,” they said in their statement.
According to the county’s statement, the Madison County Fire Department will take over the rescue services, and that the court, county emergency management and fire department will continue to provide the same level of service that they are accustomed in compliance with KRS 39F.
Additionally, the county will continue to provide financial support to each of the volunteer fire departments as well as the Berea Rescue Squad, ensure a baseline of 100 hours of training in fire and rescue response, continue utilizing specialized teams that will assist in major scale events and utilize the county’s extrication equipment for vehicle entrapment response.
Attempts were made to contact Madison County Emergency Management as well as Director Heiser, but no comment was received before going to press.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.