Council farms out EMS billing, updated on dog pound location

The EMS department was back before the council Wednesday morning’this time to determine a more suitable solution for recouping billing payments. In a previous meeting, City Manager Merle Taylor, Heart of Texas Memorial Hospital Director Tim Jones and EMS Director Eddie Sayles, discussed exploring another avenue for EMS billing with Specialized Billing and Collection Systems of Texas. “We had quite an in-depth interview with the representative of this company, and we feel it is in the best interest to enter into this agreement and allow these people to do our billing and collections,” said Taylor. “I was very impressed with their representative, Karen Llake,” said Mayor James Stewart. “She is a go-getter, and she doesn’t get paid unless she makes us money.” The payment the company will receive is based on 11 percent of the total amount collected (roughly $30,000-$40,000 annually). “We’ll get considerably more by hiring them than the city is collecting now,” explained Stewart. “We’ll make more, we’ll collect more and we’ll pay more, but we’re simply paying money that we wouldn’t have had to begin with.” Previously, the city relied on one of its employees to perform the billing and collection duties; however, those service were contracted out several months ago to Revenue Rescue. “She (the city’s employee) did a very good job, collecting 60 percent, which is industry standard,” said Taylor. “We went to Revenue Rescue and they are charging 12 percent. They have only six customers, so they don’t have the experience that this specialized billing service has. After a few months we determined they are not suitable for the City of Brady.” The new company services 40 customers and comes with ample experience for the job the city’s EMS department billing entails. With a unanimous approval from the council, it was noted, following a question posed by Councilman Jesse Tate, that the contract has a 90-day termination policy that the council will have the option of entertaining if services are not adequate for the city’s needs. Described as a “mere paperwork formality” the council approved a resolution designating Community Development Director Wendy Ellis as an authorized agent for the City of Brady in dealing with the Texas Department of Agriculture for the purpose of participating in the Texas Yes: Hardworking Rural Community Award Program and certifying that the City of Brady is eligible to receive program assistance. According to Chamber of Commerce representative Kristi Mays, who was present for Wednesday’s council meeting, the City of Brady is one of 10 communities in the state to receive special funding through the program. “We are recognized in their press releases, their Web site, etc.,” she told the council. “It’s no more than an application process that does come with money ($1,500).” The item was met by unanimous approval following Councilman Rey Garza’s motion that the resolution be adopted. The joint funding agreement between the City of Brady and the Brady Golf Association’a a contractual obligation entered into for the installation of an irrigation system at the local golf course’was approved as an action item Wednesday morning. With the item changed’and changed again’then finally tweaked once more, the item was finally met by approval by the council. The contract shows for annual payments from the association to the City of Brady in the amount of $10,000 over a 10-year period, with an initial payment of $15,000 (for undertaking specific improvements with the project). BGA President Bobby Williams addressed the council and thanked both the council and city attorney Matt deFerranti for their commitment to the project and suggested that city officials stop in at the golf course to witness the number of improvements already evident. “I appreciate everything you all are doing,” Williams said. So far this year, the association has spent over $9,000 and will contribute another $15,000 in additional funds. In a discussion item, Councilwoman Mary Bradshaw presented a packet of information to the council to help in determining a suitable location to build a new dog pound. Stewart thanked her for her work in spearheading the project and continuing the city’s efforts to replace the current and inadequate facility. “This is an ongoing problem that we had budgeted last year, explained Stewart. “It did not come to fruition, but is has not gone away.” In referencing property owned by the city as well as the McCulloch County Industrial Foundation which may be suitable for a new facility, Mrs. Bradshaw commented how she’d like to see the council move forward with property already in the city’s possession. “We looked at everything that the city owned to build a dog pound. We’re not even talking about the building,” she said. “My favorite place, and I’m just presenting this, is out here at G. Rollie White Complex. Located off the creek, Mrs. Bradshaw noted that the property has a fenced area where the city could build behind that area and utilize the front area for parking. “If we had the opportunity do something with G. Rollie White later, we could fence off that area and retain that piece of property. It seems accessible where people could go in case they want to redeem their animals.” Rufus Beam, the water department head for the City of Brady, noted that the property in question is within 105 feet of the small creek that runs through that area and 300 feet to Brady Creek; therefore flooding should not be an obstacle as first questioned by an audience member. A bonus to the location is that the city would not be out any expense of adding utility services because it is already equipped with water, sewer and electric. “We looked at some more areas,” Mrs. Bradshaw continued. “This is just a beginning, but there are other options. “It’s not definite,” she told the council as she suggested that the council look at the proposed property and consider it. “We’re not even talking about a building yet,” she said. “We’ve had a hard time just finding suitable property that wouldn’t require additional expense to add utilities. I’m trying to get us focused on a place to put it.” After audience member and longtime animal rights advocate Ralph Copenhaver blasted the council for dragging its feet on the dog pound issue and taking longer to find a location to build as it would to construct a facility, Councilwoman Linda Lott explained how the city council is obligated to find the best option available’for all taxpayers and their tax dollars at hand. “We have to take our time and do it step by step,” she said. “You can’t just come in here on a Wednesday and say tomorrow it happens.” The council agreed that the item would be back before the council for discussion or possible action in the next meeting. Moving on, the council approved the first and only reading of an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 956 to include Crothers Avenue as a posted 20- mile-per-hour school zone. “There are speed issues on Crothers Avenue,” Stewart told the council. Even though no 30-mile-per-hour signs are posted on that particular roadway, Texas law states that, unless a specific speed limit is posted, than a 30- mile-per-hour speed limit must be followed within the city limits. “This is a simple way of doing it (slowing people down),” said Stewart. “It is right next to a school, not necessarily where kids will be, but I think it’s necessary to try and slow people down. I have had several citizens complain. We can’t afford the ‘what if’ or the ‘should of,’ ‘could of,’ ‘would of.'” After deFerranti clarified that the council could legally add a specific time line (7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) to the ordinance and it still be effective, the council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance. Now that the Brady Police Department is back at full staff, an effort will be made at increasing traffic control on the north side of town’to include Crothers Avenue. At the mayor’s request, city employee Judy Stark gave an update on the efforts the city has made thus far in cleaning up the problem areas and the necessary expense as a result. In a process that begins with a complaint lodged at City Hall, a follow-up investigation, and written notification, the time frame involved with clearing such properties can range from seven to 10 days for just over grown and neglected lots to 30-45 days for dilapidated properties. If a property owner neglects a response, the city then goes out for bids to clean up the property and also files a lien against the property for the costs incurred. The first four properties cleaned by the city cost the taxpayers $1,400, and, according to Mrs. Stark, those liens have been filed against those properties. A second clean-up resulted in $4,250 spent in labor costs. Mrs. Stark estimates that half of those expenses have been recuperated; however, more work is needed before the final lien can be filed. “It’s costing the taxpayers dollars to clean up their neighbors’ junk,” said Stewart. “We are enforcing things,” Stewart added. “It costs money. But the city is in the position now, and we are following through with ordinances, and we are going to make people follow the rules. They have been ignored too long. It’s a slow process, and we don’t want to jump into things too quickly. I thank you (Mrs. Stark) for the work you are doing.” Also, Stewart mentioned that the city will soon start working on animal registration and setting an effective date when the ordinance will actually start being enforced. “We’re going to do some PR between now and the end of the year,” said Stewart. In addition, the city will focus on a brush chipping effort at the end of the month. For a small fee, a city crew will come by and pick up limbs or citizens can utilize the free brush collection at the landfill. As a precautionary measure, the council suggested that citizens not pull their limbs into the street because it causes a danger to motorists and also makes the homeowner susceptible to a citation.

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