Board of Commissioners' Actions: Commissioners Approve EMS Plan Revision, Support Rural Broadband Effort and Museum Expansion

Board of Commissioners' Actions
Commissioners Approve EMS Plan Revision, Support Rural Broadband Effort and Museum Expansion

In its regular meeting of December 15th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners approved increased assistance to County Emergency Medical Services Companies to ensure adequate ambulance coverage at all times.
The revision of the Emergency Medical Services Master Plan provides all 8 EMS companies with about $1.7 million additional funds each year for Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Life Support (ALS) personnel, ensures competitive salaries and provides an ALS "chase car" in the Southern region of the County for enhanced ambulance response.
The new plan effectively combines Phase I and Phase II of the current EMS plan, due to input from the EMS companies and changing service requirements. All of the County's Volunteer Fire and Rescue Companies voted on the new plan last week, with 22 yea, 2 nay and 2 abstaining votes. EMS advisory committees and Department of Emergency Services staff also agreed on the plan structure.
Ambulance companies will now have adequate funding to support coverage on a 24-hour/7 day schedule. Subsidies will be determined on a differential between amounts collected through bills for service and the cost of the operation. Reporting to the County will include billing information, fundraising data, and tracking of the subsidies by electronic means.
The plan will also allow for salary levels competitive with Frederick, Allegheny and other nearby Counties, at $41,000 per year for those with Advanced Life Support training and $32,500 per year for Basic Life Support personnel.
Memorandums of Understanding and other agreements will be developed by County staff working with the emergency medical service companies.
A letter of support was approved that would assist in development of rural broadband service to schools and homes in Washington County.
James Herbert, President and CEO, Global Broadband Services, L.L.C.
presented an overview of a project application that is currently being considered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Telecommunications Program for the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) grant. The Governor's Office previously evaluated, selected and subsequently forwarded this project to the USDA for consideration.
Washington County Broadband for Schools and Households is a cooperative project that is competing for Community Connect Broadband Program Grant funding from the (USDA) Rural Development Telecommunications Program and for the State Broadband Data and Development Program Grant provided by the United States Department of Commerce (USDC) National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Proposed partners/stakeholders include Global Broadband Services, the Washington County Public Schools (WCPS), Washington County Government (WCG), the Greater Hagerstown Committee, and other third party investors. The project's focus is to provide broadband capability to 15 underserved schools and their surrounding communities in Washington County.
The BIP grant application provides for full grant funding by the USDA. The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant specifies a 20 percent third party match for the requested $9.5 million funding.
The programs are part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and there would be no cost to the County general fund.
If approved, the resulting system would provide computer broadband service to schools and rural broadband to household customers. Washington County Public Schools could reduce its current cost for each of the fifteen schools served while providing higher speed services. Data provided by the company showed a reduction in cost for home broadband services compared with current rates.
Commissioners voted to loan the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts a total of $300,000 over two years, to assist in construction of an atrium area at the facility, located in Hagerstown City Park.
The proposed project would enclose the Museum's central courtyard, providing an additional 3,000 square feet of programmatic space. Uses for the space would include gathering and orientation of tour groups, new venues to host lectures and performances, as well as interactive art activities.
The Museum requested a $500,000 interest-free loan from Hotel-Motel Tax funds, with a 5-7 year payback period. The Board cited current economic factors, and lower bid prices for projects. $150,000 would come from the current fiscal year Hotel-Motel taxes and a like amount in the 2011 fiscal year, to be repaid over 5 years.