We’re pleased that Angelina County Commissioners and the members of the Huntington City Council have both approved an interlocal agreement on providing for ambulance services within the city.
Following weeks of disagreements and discussions, the agreement the two entities approved allows for Lufkin Fire to offer ambulance services to Huntington, as it does for the rest of the county. However, it calls for the city to pay for 2017 and 2018. For 2017, the city’s fee is $9,729.72, and the tab is $9,982.25 for 2018. Finally, the 2019 fee is $10,124.04.
The county didn’t send invoices for the service from 2014-16. In 2017, everyone but Huntington resumed paying. Burke and Diboll are currently waiting for an interlocal agreement before they pay 2018 and 2019 but have the money budgeted and will be paying, County Judge Don Lymbery said.
The county’s agreement with the city of Lufkin provides ambulance services all throughout the county, with other municipalities paying for the service. The problem arose, in part, because the county did not bill the other municipalities for the services from 2014-16.
With this brouhaha finally settled, it’s time for our local politicians to give serious consideration to creating an Emergency Service District to fund fire protection, emergency medical services or both. More than 300 districts currently are operating in Texas.
It wasn’t fair for Huntington to not pay their bill, just like it’s not fair for Lufkin’s taxpayers to bear the brunt of the costs associated with providing emergency medical services to the entire county. The roughly $250,000 the county is paying only represents about 2.2% of the total cost of the service. The city budgeted $8.2 million for the department in 2019, but budget writers anticipate the city will only recover $2.7 million of those expenses.
Creating an Emergency Service District will promote the public safety, health and welfare of all of Angelina County’s 85,000-plus residents. And it should do so in a manner that is equitable for all 85,000-plus residents.