County Judge Barbara Shaw said that Stephen Leal and Danny Denson both expressed an interest in taking the position.
County Commissioner Shelby Dupnik said that Dennis Kelley, owner of Texas Regional EMS, also expressed an interest in providing the service on an interim basis.
Shaw said all three choices would be qualified but she expressed a preference for appointing Leal to the position.
Dupnik argued that Kelley would be a better choice for a number of reasons, citing his administrative experience in the area of EMS services.
“We need somebody who is going to understand the process, and help us expedite the process,” Dupnik said. “Not to say that Steven or Danny couldn’t do it, but I think we need somebody who is currently independent of our current situation.”
Shaw said the county is struggling to decide what to do next.
“It is one of those things,” Shaw said. “We had one person quit and we are letting the whole program fall apart,” Shaw said. “In the sake of fairness and in the sake of loyalty, I have an interest to extend that invitation to Steven... I think he is capable of handling it.”
Dupnik wondered aloud if he could participate in the discussion or vote on the matter due to his position as a Karnes County EMS worker.
Although considered a volunteer service, Karnes County EMS workers are paid by the county $36 for each 12-hour shift, plus $40 for each run that they make. An EMS worker who makes four runs during a 12-hour shift is paid $196 for that shift.
County Attorney Herb Hancock told Dupnik that he could participate in the discussion, but legally could not vote on the agenda item due to a potential conflict of interest.
“You can say something, just don’t vote,” Hancock said.
Commissioner Pete Jauer said he would consider any of the three satisfactory, but expressed concerns about appointing Kelley because his company currently provides backup service for the county and this might also present a conflict of interest.
Hancock said it probably would present a conflict having a potential contractor also serve as EMS administrator.
“It doesn’t make any difference to me,” Commissioner Tracey Schendel said. “Whoever wants it.”
Commissioner James Rosales said Denson would likely be successful in the position.
Dupnik asked the county attorney if it would be legal for him to recommend someone for the position.
“I really wouldn’t, if I was you,” Hancock said.
Rosales made a motion to appoint Denson as interim/acting director for Karnes County EMS.
The motion carried on a 3-1 vote with one abstention. Rosales, Schendel and Jauer voted in favor, while Shaw voted against and Dupnik abstained from the vote.
Although the court approved the appointment of interim “director” as listed on the agenda for the meeting, there was some discussion at the beginning of the meeting in regard to whether the correct title was “director” or “administrator.”
The item in question was the possible appointment of an interim successor to the position vacated by Johnny Smart. The June 20 agenda referred to Smart’s position as “administrator” and the position was referred to as “administrator” in Smart’s letter to the county judge indicating his decision to retire after 42 years of service to the county.
The court took no action on a related agenda item regarding accepting contract application for back up services for Karnes County EMS.
In another related item, the court discussed requesting bids for full paid EMS in Karnes County.
The county has different options in regard to full paid EMS service, according to Dupnik. Bids can be solicited from outside sources, or the county could hire its own EMS staff.
The cost of benefits and overtime expenses need to be considered, Dupnik cautioned.
Jauer recommended postponing the decision.
“We have a volunteer service now,” Jauer said. “We have accepted Danny as interim director... I think we need to give that at least a full month to get organized and working before we make a decision on exactly what kind of system we are going to have.”
The court discussed writing an RFP (request for proposals) before taking bids from private contractors.
Jauer made a motion to approve requesting bids for full paid EMS service which was seconded by James Rosales. The motion passed on a 4-0 vote with Dupnik abstaining.
In another related item, county officials considered lease or purchase of the EMS building owned by Texas Regional EMS. The building is located near Otto Kaiser Memorial Hospital.
“I don’t think we ought to buy the building, but I think we ought to lease the building to get us out of that rat trap we lived in now for the last 42 years,” Dupnik said.
Dupnik said the lease amount he discussed with Kelley was $1 per month per square-foot. At 5,700 square-feet, the lease would amount to $5,700 per month.
“If you don’t do something now, you are never gonna do it,” Dupnik said.
County Auditor Lajuana Kasprzyk asked the county attorney if it would be legal to lease the building without advertising for proposals since the expense would be more than $50,000 per year.
Dupnik answered saying that it would be legal to do so since it affects the health and safety of the county.
The county judge asked if this was an unforeseen circumstance.
“It is unforeseen because currently it is affecting how we operate,” Dupnik said. “It has gotten worse. If you bump into it I think that whole thing would fall down.”
Commissioner Rosales disagreed.
“I think because we are aware of the condition of the building, it wouldn’t qualify as unforeseen,” Rosales said.
Hancock said the issue was not whether or not it was an unforeseen emergency, but rather whether or not the county is legally required to advertise for bids.
“I have not looked at the statute that Shelby is talking about,” Hancock said.
Hancock asked if the county was considering a 12-month contract to lease the building. Shaw said what is being considered is a “month-to-month” lease.
Kelley, however, said he would not lease the building for a term less than two years.
Rosales said some citizens had expressed concerns about the appraised value of the building and land.
“It is not nearly close to what they are asking for the property,” Rosales said regarding the appraised taxable value of the property. He said a certified appraisal is needed before making a choice, one way or the other.
The court took no action on the item, but agreed to place it on the agenda for the June 28 meeting.
When the item came up on June 28, Shaw said the agenda item had been scratched.
Shaw later explained that Commissioner Dupnik requested that the item be “passed.”