Three things that will be covered, or recovered, in Rappahannock County soon: stray cats, secondary roads and the cost of emergency medical transportation.
At its evening meeting Monday (May 6), the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a permit for RappCats to open the county’s first-ever private cat shelter; it approved a six-year secondary road plan with 10 times the funding of the six-year plan offered last year by the Virginia Department of Transportation; and it passed a new EMS Cost Recovery ordinance which offers a “painless” way to fund ambulance trips and emergency medical services.
All the approvals were unanimous (unlike the afternoon’s school budget decision; see story above) among the supervisors themselves. The evening meeting ended with a five-minute session that officially closed the board’s public hearings on the county’s proposed $22.5 million budget – a session at which no one suggested the county spend less, and only two spoke to request it spend more, in this case on RappCats’ shelter operations.
RappCats’ shelter, to be opened within a few months (pending construction, and inspection by the state veterinarian’s office) in a roughly 1,000-square-foot space in the Vierlings’ packing shed in Flint Hill, is the county’s first facility devoted to housing and finding homes for stray cats. The supervisors, as the planning commission and County Administrator John McCarthy recommended, approved the permit with three conditions: that state vet approval is received; that RappCats perform water quality testing and seek health department approval; and that the nonprofit organization make a “good faith effort” to improve the site’s handicapped accessibility.
RappCats president Pat Snyder, board member Mary Ann Kuhn, founder and board member Franklin Schmidt and others spoke during the public hearing for the permit; as throughout the permit process, no one rose to oppose the shelter.
Kuhn noted the supervisors had been handed a petition signed by 330 county residents supporting the shelter. Both Snyder and Schmidt later rose to recommend the county keep a proposed $16,800 in the 2014 budget earmarked to support operations at the cat shelter.
“Every county in Virginia, except Rappahannock County and nine others, has a cat shelter,” Kuhn said. “Every county on our borders has one.” RappCats is currently funded solely by donations and fundraising events.
After a brief presentation by VDOT officials – and requests by several residents that VDOT consider paving most of Turkey Ridge Road in Castleton, and Rolling Road in Sperryville, under the state’s Rural Rustic Road program – the supervisors unanimously approved the six-year secondary road project plan that VDOT revises annually (with local approval).
This year’s plan is notable in that funding sources over the next six years now total $1.4 million (funding for the six-year plan issued by VDOT last year totaled just $150,000). The new draft includes plans to resurface parts of Aaron Mountain Road and Rolling Road – and, at the supervisors request Monday, tentatively Turkey Ridge Road – and bridge replacements on Jericho Road and North Poes Road.
The EMS Cost Recovery ordinance, a nearly year-long project by the county and the Rappahannock County Fire & Rescue Association, would allow the county to begin billing insurance carriers for trips made by volunteer rescue squads from any location in Rappahannock County to a hospital or medical facility.
The ordinance includes a “compassionate billing” feature – automatic waivers for anyone who has a 911 address in the county, and hardship allowances for anyone not able to pay. In practice, it would allow the county (through a billing service McCarthy expects will charge 7 to 15 percent of what it takes in) to bill patients’ insurance companies for the transport. If you live in the county (and/or qualify for the financial hardship exemption), you’re not responsible for any portion of the fee not paid by insurance. (If you have no insurance, the fee will be waived.)
McCarthy expects the ordinance will eventually raise $350,000 to $400,00 a year, earmarked to support volunteer rescue squads. Even after annual expenditures required by the measure for training and equipment, there will be some left to save for the time when the county, as McCarthy and others have said, will need to start paying its fire and rescue personnel (or at least some of them).
For more information on how the EMS ordinance will work, visit rappahannockcountyva.gov/documents/EMSCostRecoveryFAQ.pdf.