Boone County Ambulance Authority Board President Freddie Harless (facing) hears a report from BCAA Executive Director Bryan Justice during their regular meeting on Sept. 26.

RACINE — The Boone County Ambulance Authority, at its regular meeting on Sept. 26, reported a more optimistic financial outlook compared with its troubled budget at the start of the calendar year.

Board members also discussed properties owned by the BCAA during the meeting.

According to a report presented at the meeting, the BCAA collected $307,000 in the month of August and stand $87,000 ahead of budget. The agency was able to pay both August and September PEIA premiums.

After cuts to the budget earlier in the year, the BCAA shows a $13,000 reduction in payroll at this time, in comparison to 2018.

The agency collected its levy check this month, which, at an approximate $800,000, was meager in comparison to the approximately $1.9 million collected as recently as 2012.

“It hasn’t been fun, but we can catch our breath a little bit,” said Board President Freddie Harless. “We can’t let our guard down. This is a reflection of the work that these two guys have done (Executive Director Bryan Justice and Operations Director Joey Smith) and our employees also have bought into what Joey and Bryan have presented to us.”

Soon after, the board approved a longevity pay increase for BCAA employees for 2019.

“I think that we do this now while we have it,” added Justice.

Based on a scale, salaries will incrementally increase based on time served with the agency. The increase would cost $23,550, according to a spreadsheet presented by Justice that included the tenure of all BCAA employees.

Smith said he would like to be excluded from the increase. Justice concurred, but board members encouraged them to participate.

“We don’t want people to think that this is the reason we brought it to you all,” Justice said.

Smith added that his motivation for the increase wasn’t personal.

“I want to do it for (the employees), not me,” he said.

Harless added to the conversation.

“Our employees have stuck with us through thick and thin and now we’re able to do something for them that we haven’t been able to do for three years,” he said. “But you guys have done the same thing, so I would not exclude yourself. We made a promise to our employees that when we got to the point where we had it, we’d give back to them when we had the chance.”

Nearing the end of the meeting, Justice addressed the potential transfer of county property that could directly affect the BCAA.

“The county is trying to get rid of some property and the one property we are looking at is our annex building (old Racine Elementary),” he said.

Also known as Station 40, it is owned by the county, but a reversal clause would see it revert back to Boone County Schools if the county were to present a desire to unload the property.

According to Harless, the BCAA has invested over $300,000 into the facility and board members were unaware of the logistics involving the property and are concerned about the future of the annex.

Perhaps complicating matters, Boone County is currently negotiating a deal to sell Lick Creek Park in Danville to Boone County Schools, a site where the Scott High softball team plays WVSSAC-sanctioned games. Boone County Commissioner Craig Bratcher has approached the BCAA about the county acquiring property they own behind their offices to be converted into a Hatfield-McCoy trailhead friendly campground.

Harless expressed in a phone interview prior to the meeting that he wants the agency to continue to have access to the annex that they’ve invested in but has serious concerns about a property triangle that he feels the BCAA has been pulled into.

“I expressed at a meeting to Craig that I had concerns about not having a deed to a building that we spent over $300,000 on,” he said. “This is taxpayer levy money.”

Harless said he isn’t interested in “property swaps” with the county, but stopped short of saying that he felt the agency was being held hostage by the county in the situation.

“I’ve been working on this for a while and I’ve never been happy with spending money on that building without a deed to it,” he said. “The commission is trying to get what they can out of it and the BCAA is in the middle of it and I want to try to take care of it in a way that we can get the deed to our building. If the Board of Education contacts us about the building reverting back to them, I will speak up because that should not be happening.”

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or 304-307-2401.