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Town records lower than usual ambulance write-off

Squaring away the local fire department’s billing process and ensuring fire crews have their equipment in good working condition are two agenda items the Pahrump Town Board discussed last night.

Town Board Vice Chair Bill Dolan said both items related to the town’s finances in a positive way.

The town was actually able to write off fewer fund amounts on the Ambulance Fund Account compared to years past.

Due to time constraints, results of action items will appear in Friday’s edition of the Pahrump Valley Times.

From July to September of this year, the total charges billed on the ambulance fund accounts receivable for bad debt write-offs totaled $270,343.

When the town factored in contractual adjustments by insurance providers as well as insurance and patient payments, the write-off and collection balances came to $93,181.

Last year, from March to June, the town collected a mere $270,491 out of $656,419 in billable charges.

As a result, the town was forced to write off $385,928 worth of potential revenue.

Dolan said some residents in town must rely on local ambulance transports to Desert View Hospital and even medical facilities in Las Vegas because it’s their only means of transportation.

“Many don’t have the income to pay for their ambulance service calls for getting to the hospital. On the other hand, some residents use it for emergency services. Once a quarter we get asked to write off that bad debt which includes people who have filed bankruptcy and even people who have died. Not long ago the town established a policy where small balances can be written off,” he said.

Dolan praised efforts of town staff who were able to collect more bad debts this year compared to past years.

“Since I’ve been involved with the town board government, I have never ever seen such a low amount to be written off. It’s usually in the $100’s or $200,000 range. At $93,000 for this past three-month period, I have to commend the ladies in the town office who worked diligently on these collections. Having such a low amount is amazing to the work ethics and how well the program is working. They need all of the credit in the world for what they accomplished for the town,” he said.

Dolan also wanted to clarify that that the bad debt balances do not affect the town’s overall financial stability.

“You have to remember that the ambulance fund is its own fund. It’s like a business doing business and every business is going to have a certain amount of write-off every quarter or every year. This is a part of the cost of doing business,” he said.

Town Finance Director Michael Sullivan said every effort is made by town staff to collect monies owed for services rendered.

If the town is unsuccessful, an outside collection agency steps in to “urge” those who have not settled up with the town, to do so as soon as possible.

The action also allows the town to transfer the bad debt into a separate delinquent account thus reflecting a more tangible and realistic balance sheet.

“After a reasonable effort has been made to collect an outstanding balance by the ambulance office staff, then we turn the delinquent accounts over to an outside professional collection agency to pursue. If the additional efforts by the collection agency are successful, then a recovery of the write-off is made and the payment is posted to the receivable just as if it had never been written off,” he said.

Town board members also discussed the need to replace emergency equipment used regularly by local fire crews.

The equipment allows firefighters to breathe when entering a structure filled with noxious smoke in the event of a fire.

In a memo to Sullivan, Fire Chief Scott Lewis said the Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) used by firefighters is aging and needs to be replaced tout de suite.

“Our current SCBA have required extensive maintenance and numerous repairs on both the packs and the face pieces (masks). We currently have 50 air packs and 100 bottles (spare required per pack). The existing SCBA was acquired through Nye County several years prior to my arrival. The manufacturer’s date reflects that they may have been purchased around 2000. The bottles are required to be replaced in 2015 at a cost of approximately $100,000. Therefore, we were slated to incur a substantial expenditure for the existing SCBA that historically have been challenging to maintain,” the memo stated.

Lewis noted that a grant request he submitted to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) roughly a year ago will cover a majority of the associated costs for the town.

The fire chief also said he was able to reduce costs by utilizing a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) process through the fire department.

Entities or businesses can obtain discounts from vendors based on the collective buying power of GPO members.

“The grant was submitted in mid-2012 for a total value of $322,934. The town cost shared was 10 percent or $32,293. Since the submission, there was a manufacturer’s price increase that became effective in August 2012. The award revealed that the Grant Award Value was reduced from the requested $322,934 to $287,884 or a reduction of $35,050. Since receipt of the notice, I have identified an existing GPO. The price for the equipment has been reduced to $297,594, therefore, the town will benefit by utilizing the GPO for the equipment,” he said.

Board members also discussed reappointing two standing members of the Pahrump Veterans Advisory Board and considered approving the Pahrump Pow Wow’s use of town-owned property (Cook Shack) for the annual event next month.

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