By Kathi Bliss
It always interests me to watch our leaders – or more to the point, our politicians – dance around the real issues on the table. That dance was never more beautifully choreographed than it has been as the City Council and County Commissioners engage in discussion about contracting Seton to run Lockhart/Caldwell County EMS.
Now, on the surface, I’m in support of the idea of our governmental bodies entering an agreement that will, in essence, save us, the taxpayers, a fortune.
I’m not in support of that agreement if it’s going to cost even one of my friends a job.
But those are issues we’re talking about.
The real issues, the elephants in the room, if you will, are a few other questions – questions that no one seems to be talking about.
Let’s say we do go ahead and privatize our EMS service. How do we get it back, in the event we aren’t satisfied with the service? More to the point, what will that cost us?
Or, better still, let’s say that the County decides to move forward with an 1115 Waiver Program with Seton, and the City doesn’t. What happens then?
Among the things that will happen, at least this year, if the County makes a move, is that the City will face a $500,000 budget deficit, brought on by reduced billing and the removal of payments from the County. I hate to think that the Commissioners would strap Lockhart’s taxpayers with that kind of bill, but I don’t know that they wouldn’t – because no one is talking about whether or not the County intends to leave the EMS service agreement if Lockhart doesn’t go with the 1115 Waiver proposal.
If the services do separate, what then? Lockhart and Caldwell County share ownership of the equipment, so presumably that equipment would be split. The theoretical “Lockhart EMS” and “Caldwell County EMS” organizations would each have to spend countless dollars to expand their equipment to run two viable services.
What will that cost the taxpayers, and how should we be planning for it?
Where will Caldwell County EMS live? The City of Lockhart owns the current station facilities, so the County will have to find the funds to outfit two more stations with living quarters, equipment and staff. How much is that going to cost?
These questions are some of around 3,000 questions that have flown through my mind as I’ve considered the possibilities and the ramifications of an EMS takeover.
But there is no good answer to these questions, because the key, salient question has not been answered yet – in fact, it hasn’t even been addressed, except in speculation.
What are your intentions, Caldwell County Commissioners? This whole discussion hinges upon your intentions. Do you mean to continue with the EMS service agreement, whether or not Lockhart votes to turn EMS over to Seton? Are you going to separate the services if the City of Lockhart doesn’t go along with the proposal? Or do you mean to honor what appeared to be a gentlemen’s agreement, to take one more year, do the research, think it over and make a decision for the next budget cycle?
That, good sirs, is the true elephant in the room. It’s time to stop feeding the elephant peanuts, or telling us that we’re imagining the elephant.
It’s time to go ahead and start talking about the elephant.