Statement Regarding Ambulance Fee Payments
There seems to be a misunderstanding that ambulance fees are no longer payable because the Jefferson County Commission did not amend its Ambulance Fee Ordinance following the adoption of the Ordinance to Reorganize the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency (referred to in this document as the ESA Ordinance).
To Summarize: The JCESA was not dissolved on May 18, 2023. Only the management structure was changed by dissolving the Board of Directors and melding JCESA into the County as a Department under the management of a Director. The public corporation known as the JCESA still exists, and will continue to exist until all licenses, permits and other necessary permissions are moved under the County Commission.
The Ambulance Fee Ordinance is still in effect even though it was not amended following the adoption of the ESA Ordinance.
The Explanation: To fully understand this issue it is helpful to understand the adoption of the revision to the current ESA Ordinance and the attempted revision of the Ambulance Fee Ordinance.
The County Commission voted to revise the ESA Ordinance on May 18, 2023. The revised ESA Ordinance reorganized the ESA as a County department, changed the management of the ESA from the Board to a Director who works directly for the County Commission, and dissolved the former ESA Board of Directors. The public corporation known as the ESA itself is not yet dissolved pending the final transfer of all licenses and personnel to the Commission.
Section 1 of the May 18, 2023 ESA Ordinance (titled the Ordinance to Reorganize the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency) states in relevant part:
Pursuant to W. Va. Code, § 7-15-1, et. seq and S.B. 224, Ch. 234, Acts, Reg. Sess. (W.Va. 2008), the entity called the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency (hereinafter referred to as "the Agency") (a public corporation), is hereby reorganized as a County department under the direct authority of the Jefferson County Commission. The Agency shall be a joint emergency services agency authorized to provide ambulance and emergency medical services and fire protection services in the incorporated and unincorporated areas of Jefferson County. The current Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency Board is hereby dissolved with thanks for their service. The Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency, a public corporation, continues in uninterrupted existence with day to day executive control under an Agency Director.
Staff subsequently suggested that the County Commission also amend the current Ambulance Fee Ordinance. This was primarily suggested to extend the deadline for late payments and consolidate the current process for payment of late fees in two stages into just one payment. Passage of the amendment would have had the effect of giving the public an additional approximate two months to make ambulance fee payments without incurring a late fee, and would have reduced administrative costs, thereby saving the ESA (and the public) money. The suggested amendment would also conform the Ambulance Fee Ordinance to the new departmental structure. The County Commission on a two to two tie vote determined not to make this amendment to the Ambulance Fee Ordinance. However, the lack of passage of the amendment to the Ambulance Fee Ordinance does not affect the collection of ambulance fees in any way.
- The County Commission enacted the original Ambulance Fee Ordinance, like it does for all County ordinances. The lack of passage of the amendment to the Ambulance Fee Ordinance does not affect the validity of the ambulance fee ordinance.
- The Ambulance Fee Ordinance defines the ambulance fee as “the fee imposed by the Jefferson County Commission through this ordinance and collected from the users of emergency ambulance service within Jefferson County.” Consequently, the Ambulance Fee Ordinance, by its own terms, defines the ambulance fee as being imposed by the County Commission. The fee is not imposed by the ESA, and is not affected by the change in management structure of the ESA. The lack of passage of the amendment to the Ambulance Fee Ordinance does not affect the collection of ambulance fees.
- The Ambulance Fee Ordinance states that ambulance fees are to be deposited in a special account for the benefit of the JCESA held by the treasurer of Jefferson County and used to pay ambulance service salary and expenses. The lack of passage of the amendment to the Ambulance Fee Ordinance does not affect the deposits or use of ambulance fees.
The most significant duty of the former ESA board of directors regarding fees under the Ambulance Fee Ordinance is to make recommendations to the County Commission regarding needed fee changes for the upcoming year, and perhaps to hold a yearly public hearing to receive comments. The dissolution of the ESA Board has no significant effect on the administration of the Ambulance Fee Ordinance.
This position statement is offered to clear up any confusion regarding status of the Ambulance Fee Ordinance and its effect on the payment of ambulance fees this year.