Ambulance controversy in Angelina County

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - It may sound minor, but for cities like Hudson, Huntington, Zavalla and Diboll, it's huge.  Starting January 1st, 2009 Angelina County will no longer pay for ambulance services to those cities.

"We discussed with commissioners at some point in time, we need to let the other incorporated entities take up their share of the cost to provide and ambulance service to their residents," says Judge Wes Suiter.

The problem city leaders had at Tuesday's meeting is that the county has taken care of the ambulance service to their municipalities for almost three decades.  They want to know, why change it now? Judge Suiter says it's about money.

"The cost is about 225-thousand this year total for everything outside the city of Lufkin. Per capita, it's about $4.77 a person," says Suiter.

That money would go toward the cost of the contract with the city of Lufkin, for their ambulance service to county calls, which includes going into smaller cities. The county's argument is at a quarter of a million dollars, they can't keep paying for other cities.

"They'll have to incur that cost for their cities for their individual municipalities," says Suiter.

But those city's leaders say it's not fair to make their people pay extra, when they already pay the county taxes.

"They won't get a break. People in Hudson are paying our tax rate, your tax rate and if it stops at city limits, those outside are not paying our tax rate," says Hudson's City Manager.

Tuesday, Mayor Robert Smith of Hudson and the others decided to hold another meeting in two weeks with all parties involved to come to an agreement.

"If we don't have anything better, I'm sure we will go with this contract. Because you have to provide?  Yes, we have to provide because we can't leave Hudson without services and we won't either," says Smith.

But Judge Suiter says either way, come January 1st, the cities will be responsible for their own service, whether they pay to continue using Lufkin ambulances or contract their own.

Suiter says the county is not trying to leave anyone out, but at some point the cities must start to pay for their own services entirely, like they already do for police, fire and road maintenance.