A request by the Seventh District Volunteer Rescue Squad to increase taxes for residents in the squad’s first-due area is under review by the county finance department, but seemingly the reason for the request may be an impediment.
The request to increase the tax from 1.1 cents to 3 cents per $100 of assessed home value was approved by the St. Mary’s County Emergency Services Board in June, and is meant mainly to fund a paid daytime position for the squad, which is struggling to provide consistent coverage due to dwindling volunteers.
During an emergency services board meeting Wednesday evening, board member Hattie Norris briefed the board on a meeting between finance and the rescue squad. She acknowledged she did not attend that meeting.
“Finance was unaware that they’re doing a tax increase to hire people,” Norris told the board. “It sounds like that would be at least a year out to be able to hire people, but their budget would support if they wanted to do a private contract for it. [Rescue squad vice president] Matt Colliflower is looking into this further.”
“We were following the process via the county commissioners, and I thought things were moving smoothly enough,” board chair Mock Mattingly III said. “I thought we would see, in a reasonable amount of time, the Seventh District rescue squad would receive some type of, let’s call it, outside help,” he said.
Finance director Jeannett Cudmore said Thursday the request is still under review, and would not comment on the meeting before speaking with the county commissioners. A recommendation will be sent to the commissioners once the review is complete, she said in an emailed response.
In June, Colliflower told the board the daytime duty crew for the squad consists of “three individuals in their 70s, and one EMT.”
According to the squad’s budget documents, it sought to hire one or two paid EMTs to cover 80 hours during the day, amounting to $83,200 a year.
The request was a result of a meeting between two county commissioners and representatives of emergency services and the rescue squad.
“The suggestion was they submit that [request] and also submit a letter to the commissioners asking for assistance, and they did that,” Stephen Walker, emergency services director, said Thursday.
“I don’t think it’s an unusual process this is going through, it’s just a lengthy process. … Nothing’s being delayed,” Walker said.
“You have a group that provides life-saving response that went through all the proper channels to come to this committee to make sure we got all of our boxes checked. … If I’m being told now, the reason it’s not being funded is because we missed some deadlines, shame on us, but I don’t think that was it,” board member and jurisdictional medical director Dr. Daniel Geary said.
“This is not just a Seventh District problem here. I am very concerned about the services that sometimes we cannot give to our community,” Mattingly said. “When you listen to a dispatch and sometimes that dispatch will go into the seventh due unit for someone that’s called for help, and that’s five minutes in between each dispatch, so now you’re talking 35 minutes just to try to get an ambulance on the road. It’s not just the Seventh District, it’s becoming countywide. … We’ve really got to tackle this and I think tackle it soon,” Mattingly said.
A representative from the 7th District rescue squad could not be reached by press time.