LANCASTER — City Council members will discuss with county officials the cost of remaining a member of the Bluegrass Emergency Response Team.
Russ Clark, Bluegrass 911 director and spokesman for the emergency response team, addressed the council at its meeting Monday.
BERT is an emergency support and responder team serving 11 counties in Kentucky and helps in disasters, even when a county is not one of the members.
Garrard County is a member and, according to Clark, the fees are generally split between the governing bodies in each county. Lancaster and Garrard County are each expected to pay $1,375. The county has paid fees to BERT since 2009 and has already approved it for this year.
Councilman Jeff Adams questioned why the city, which does not make up half of the entire population of the county, would be expected to pay half the money.
“Since the 1970s, the county has wanted a 50/50 split,” Adams said. He said that was reflective of the overall population at that time.
Lancaster no longer represents that large a portion of the county’s population, Adams said, stating it is closer to 20 percent.
He suggested council members consider a 25 to 75 percent split, with the city paying 25 percent to reflect the current population numbers.
Councilman Chris Davis said during his time on the council Lancaster has never paid to be part of BERT.
Clark warned the council that not paying could result in a higher price tag should the emergency response team be called to the city. Recent policy changes, he explained, state that BERT could bill Lancaster for the fee owed and additionally for any equipment used.
Council members opted to table the discussion to have time to speak with county officials.
Lancaster Fire Chief Richard Sebastian said in a phone interview he had a verbal agreement with Boyle County to help in the case of a disaster, if possible.
Sebastian explained that Boyle has hazmat capabilities.
Members of the city fire department also have been taking classes with a hazmat team in Somerset, training for such a disaster, he said.
“It just depends on how bad the disaster is,” Sebastian said, adding that BERT has a lot of equipment and is a good organization.
In other business:
- City water bills will be due on March 15 instead of March 10 due to an error.
- Mayor Brenda Powers noted the ongoing effort to get individuals to turn in any unneeded prescription medications for proper disposal. There is a mailbox available beside the police station at city hall set up for the items to be dropped off, no questions asked.
- Council members reminded Powers there are supposed to be three people appointed to the ethics committee, none of which are to be elected city officials.
- Clark also was asked to clarify information on Code Red, the program that makes phone calls to residents in weather-related emergencies. The cost is $290 for a year and is not covered by the county’s Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program. The city approved the service.
- Clark told the council that the county could be making the switch to a digital system for emergency communications within the next three to four months.