ELIZABETHTON — Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes raised concerns during this week’s meeting of the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce about funding for the county’s search and rescue teams.
“I don’t want to bash anyone, I think this will be worked out,” Mathes said following the meeting. “i just wanted to point out to that the county is promoting tourism and we are cutting back on our rescue services.”
Mathes was referring to the recent budget approved by the Carter County Commission that has taken funds previously donated to the Carter County Rescue Squad and moved those funds to the Carter County 911. The Rescue Squad is also facing additional demands from the 911 to pay for dispatch calls to the Rescue Squad and its emergency medical service side.
The sheriff said the Rescue Squad is searching for ways to cover the lost revenue. He said he and other members of the county government have met with the director and other leaders of the Rescue Squad about the matter.
Mathes said he has been assigned to many areas of the nation and the world in his work in law enforcement and he said the professionalism and ability of the local rescue providers impresses him.
“I think we have one of the best rescue squads in the nation. The job they do is impressive.”
Mathes said the discussions with county officials are over how rescue services should be paid.
“Who pays for them?” Mathes asked. He also wondered about promoting tourism if rescue services are being scaled back.
“I am hopeful this can be worked out,” the sheriff said.
The recent cuts were just the latest the county has made on the Rescue Squad’s funding. In 2004, the county donated $340,000 a year toward the squad’s rescue operations. There was no charge at that time to the Rescue Squad for 911 calls.
Rescue Squad Director Terry Arnold said that has since dropped to apparently $104,000 with a $60,000 charge from 911. “This amounts to a net reduction of approximately 87 percent over nine years, not taking any inflation into account.”