ELIZABETHTON — In a tight budget year with little room to maneuver, the Carter County Commission is facing much higher than expected costs for its jail medical services and forensic services.
Sheriff Chris Mathes said he has been struggling to provide medical support for the jail since Dr. Daniel Paul ended his services last month.
The sheriff said he has advertised for bids for a new medical provider, but the lowest bid was $118,000 above Paul’s contract of $360,000 for the year.
“Since I have been sheriff this has been the most difficult month I have had,” Mathes told the Budget Committee of the commission on Monday night. He said he has not only been taking bids on a new medical care contract, he has also been negotiating with doctors and nurses to provide short-term medical care during the gap between the end of Paul’s contract and the start of the next physician’s contract.
“I have even had to recruit nurses from (the Washington County Detention Center) to come in and work for us on their off days,” Mathes said. “I have talked to no less than a dozen doctors.”
Mathes told the committee he plans to have the full County Commission hear presentations from the bidders during next week’s meeting.
The committee was also surprised by the proposed share of forensic costs requested by the Quillen College of Medicine. Carter County’s share was placed at $51,781, which Finance Director Ingrid Deloach said was $13,000 more than the $38,000 the committee had budgeted for this year.
Committee member Thomas “Yogi” Bowers, who is also chairman of the County Commission, said he did not appreciate the late notice. “This should have been sent during the budget cycle ... they understand that, they have to go through one too,” Bowers said.
The money will be used to pay for an average of 29 autopsies the county requests each year. Mathes said the autopsies were not just done for murder investigations but also for unusual deaths of young people and suicides. He said the findings of the autopsy are the only means of answering questions surviving friends and family members may have a year or more later.
Bowers made a motion that the $13,000 in the industry fund should be transferred to cover the increased costs for autopsies. The committee approved the motion and will recommend it at Monday’s commission meeting.
The committee accepted the low bid of $499,245 from Landmark Construction Co. of Johnson City to build the new Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter. The bid must now be approved by the Elizabethton City Council on Thursday and the County Commission on Monday.
The committee also approved a transfer of $14,184.50 to cover the costs of seven bulletproof vests for the sheriff’s department and $6,010 to cover the cost of a used front-load dumpster from Mooresville, N.C. for the landfill.
Finally, the committee agreed to recommend to the Commission to allow Milligan College to issue up to $7.5 million in tax-exempt bonds, which will be handled by Carter County Bank. The bonds would not obligate the county in any way. The committee’s approval was contingent on County Attorney Keith Bowers Jr. agreeing to the plan.
The bonds would be used to provide for contingencies in the financing of a new complex of dormitory apartments for students. The newest of the college’s residence halls were built 25 years ago.