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Kannapolis mulls budget, EMS response times

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó A public hearing at Monday night’s Kannapolis City Council meeting drew no comments from the public, but members will allow a further two weeks for input before voting on the measure.
The nearly $44.8 million budget does not include a tax increase but cuts spending to help bridge the gap between revenues from the past year.
City Manager Mike Legg called the budget the product of “a refocused effort toward financial stewardship” as a result of slower economic development.
The budget will come up for a vote at the June 22 council meeting. Members of the body did not discuss it Monday night.
Council members did discuss information provided by Kannapolis Fire Chief Eddie Hiers, who responded to a request made some weeks ago by Councilman Richard Anderson regarding emergency medical service response times.
As a city straddling two counties, Rowan and Cabarrus county EMS services play a vital role. But Anderson had asked for information after hearing concerns from citizens about Rowan responders taking longer to respond to calls.
According to facts presented by Hiers, Cabarrus County EMS responded to 2,970 calls in Kannapolis in 2008. Cabarrus has two EMS stations in the city.
Rowan County EMS responded to approximately 1,200 calls in the Kannapolis city limits from stations in Landis, China Grove and Salisbury. There are no Rowan EMS units stationed in Kannapolis.
Both units have set official “acceptable” response times. Cabarrus County EMS has a target time of eight minutes per the expectations of that county’s Board of Commissioners.
Hiers said the average acceptable response times for Rowan County are 11 minutes, 59 seconds for rural calls and eight minutes, 59 seconds for urban calls.
According to Hiers, the average response time to Kannapolis for Rowan County EMS in the first three months of 2009 was nine minutes and 55 seconds.
Cabarrus County EMS has an average response time of six minutes and 11 seconds for the same period.
But when asked to do so seven times last year, Hiers said, Rowan County units did respond on the Cabarrus County side of the line.
“We want to encourage Rowan EMS to notify Cabarrus EMS for mutual aid whenever the local unit is busy,” Hiers said.
But he stressed that the nearest station to downtown ó Cabarrus station 3 on Loop Road near Main Street ó is the third busiest in the county.
Another possible measure would be for Rowan units to reposition when another unit is called out. Cabarrus County EMS units cover one another when calls come in. For instance, when the Loop Road unit is on a call, another ambulance moves closer to the station to be able to respond quickly to either zone.
“Rowan has taken the position that they do not cover when a station is out,” Hiers said. “Cabarrus does it all the time. … They come halfway to the unit they’re covering.”
The other option would be to encourage Rowan County EMS to locate a station in the city limits.
Mayor Bob Misenheimer mentioned a former Rowan County Sheriff’s Office in the city, now closed, and whether that location might be feasible. In any case, he said, Kannapolis is the largest population center in Rowan County after Salisbury.
“We’ve got 42,000 people … It would seem to me that one of the things they would want to do is locate the EMS as close as possible to the majority of the population,” Misenheimer said.
Councilman Darrell Hinnant asked where the majority of the calls responded to from China Grove and Landis were located.
“They readily admit that most of the calls are in Kannapolis,” Hiers said. “And if the city or the county had property, they would probably consider moving one of those two units.”
Anderson thanked Hiers for his work and stressed that he had respect for the EMS units.
“My comments weren’t meant to be detrimental to the EMS from either county,” he said. “…We’ve got to do everything we can to help one another, especially during times of emergency.”
In other business, the Kannapolis City Council:
– Approved an application for a U.S. Department of Energy conservation grant which, if received, would give the city $170,300 with which to buy police bicycles, two hybrid vehicles and a number of LED streetlamps.
– Heard a report from Jason Dorn of Gavel and Dorn Engineering on the need for eventual upgrades to the city’s sewer system. A multipart study concluded that improvements to the Coldwater Creek trunk sewer will be needed to meet the city’s long-term growth needs, although the current system is adequate.
– Held a public hearing and then approved installment purchase financing for three bridge replacement projects at Mount Olivet Road, Pump Station Road and Fairview Street, in an amount not to exceed $700,000.

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