Supervisors OK rescue fees, RRCS borrowing

The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors approved two proposed borrowing resolutions by the Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services Board (RRCSB) and adopted the rates for the county’s new paid EMS transports at its holiday-delayed monthly meeting last Thursday afternoon (Sept. 5).

RRCS provides Rappahannock and surrounding counties (Madison, Orange, Culpeper and Fauquier) with services to citizens with disabilities. Rappahannock contributes $60,000 toward RRCS each year, despite being easily the smallest member area.

Virginia state law requires the RRCSB to seek approval by supervisors in each of its chartered counties before borrowing money. At August’s meeting, Rappahannock’s supervisors heard a presentation from RRCS executive director Brian Duncan, who outlined two plans for the future.

Duncan asked the supervisors to approve two borrowing resolutions: a $3 million adaptive reuse of RRCS’ Culpeper-based facility (formerly the Old Boxwood Motel) and the construction of a new facility for day rehabilitation of adults with developmental disabilities, valued at $3.8 million.

According to documents provided to the supervisors by RRCS, reuse project would transform Boxwood from a 32-bed substance-use counseling facility into one for outpatient services, along with offices for 55 employees. Last month, Duncan said the renovations would also help improve patients’ experiences by cutting down on wait time, which is now up to 12 weeks.

The second resolution concerns two buildings RRCS currently rents to provide rehabilitation and workshop services to more than 100 adults. “The rented facilities were not designed for this purpose and are failing to address the accessibility needs of individuals,” one RRCS document states. The new facility will also be more centrally located to RRCS’s service area.

Duncan said construction on both projects will likely begin in fiscal year 2015, and should be completed the following year.

Both resolutions had been approved by the supervisors in Culpeper, Orange and Fauquier, said County Administrator John McCarthy at Thursday’s meeting. Approving the resolutions would not require any additional finances from Rappahannock (or any of the other surrounding chartered counties), McCarthy noted.

Though the supervisors all seemed in favor of the idea, Jackson district supervisor Ron Frazier suggested approving both resolutions wouldn’t be as “free” as RRCS promised. “We’re not going to be completely off the hook here,” said Frazier. “I’m afraid we’ll see Mr. Duncan and the [RRCS] board members back here again asking for more money.”

Both resolutions were unanimously approved by the supervisors, 4-0. (Piedmont district supervisor Mike Biniek was absent.)

The supervisors also voted to approve the emergency transport billing costs and schedule provided by McCarthy, in consultation with Castleton Community Volunteer Fire and Rescue president Paul Komar and county emergency services coordinator Richie Burke, who worked on behalf of the Rappahannock County Fire & Rescue Association to develop the plan. McCarthy said he had compared the prices in nine other counties, including neighboring counties and several farther afield that were closer to Rappahannock’s size.

McCarthy proposed the county charge $13 per mile and $450 for basic life support. More advanced treatment, Advanced Life Support 1 and 2, would cost $550 and $775, respectively. A dry-run of the new billing system begins Oct. 1, McCarthy said, and officially goes into effect Nov. 1.

The cost-recovery program, a nearly year-long project by the county and fire and rescue association, enables 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, adopted in May, 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 other words, any EMS patient who lives in the county (and/or qualifies for the financial hardship exemption) will not be responsible for any portion of a fee not paid by insurance. (The fee will be waived if no insurance plan covers it.)

“This is a good way to not have to raise taxes in Rappahannock County,” said Hampton district supervisor S. Bryant Lee, referring to the county’s plans to increase support to its fire and rescue services with a substantial portion of the cost-recovery revenue. The other supervisors agreed, approving the fees scheduling 4-0.

Tiger Valley bridge

In other, more inconvenient news, McCarthy informed the supervisors that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently decided the old steel bridge that runs over the Rush River on Tiger Valley Road needs to be replaced.

McCarthy said VDOT originally scheduled repairs for later this year but agreed to delay those plans until late spring or early summer after school board members pointed out how many bus routes make use of that bridge. Repairs could take as long as six weeks, VDOT suggested, meaning Tiger Valley residents could be forced to take lengthy detours for more than a month.

“I’m sure my phone will smoke that day,” said Lee.