Palo Pinto ESD 2 OKs contract with Santo EMS, includes naming Duncan administrator

Mar. 17—SANTO — The board running ambulance service in southwest Palo Pinto County OK'd annual budgets for itself and its contracted EMS on Tuesday.

The Palo Pinto County Emergency Services District No. 2 also approved Santo EMS Chief Kristina Duncan as its administrator and agreed to begin paying her for taking on the role.

"One thing's for sure, there was a lot accomplished tonight," real estate broker Dennis Neystel said after the meeting adjourned, noting that it had gone noticeably smoother than previous meetings that had been drawing a roomful of residents wary of decisions the new board might make.

Neystel was in the audience of 10 or 12 to ask the board's direction in selling 1.9 acres along Interstate 20 that the previous board had bought to the dismay of many in the community.

The new board, of which three of five members were at Tuesday's meeting, was seated late last year. One of its first acts was to abandon plans for a new headquarters on I-20 at U.S. 281 and sell the land.

Neystel recommended listing the property at $209,000 for one year, with the caveat the offer could be withdrawn any time within that 12 months.

And Santo EMS Chief Kristina Duncan, whose department provides ambulances for the district and has been its acting administrator, added the board is not bound to accept the list price if better offers are made.

"They are not locked in with having an offer that comes in at the listing price," she said.

The board later passed budgets for Santo EMS and the district. The district, which is funded by a 1.5-cent sales tax, pays Santo EMS about $45,000 a month for its crews and two ambulances.

The district provides ambulance service for the Santo, Lone Camp and Brazos communities.

The EMS' budget totaled $421,110 and included a $2 hourly raise for Duncan's 30 or so employees. Her own salary, which is inside the Santo EMS budget but paid by the emergency services district, includes her pay for both jobs.

It was set at $70,000 but included no benefits such as insurance or retirement savings.

Her salary last year was $48,000 but did not compensate Duncan at all for her administrative work for the emergency services district.

It took a little prompting on her part.

"I can continue to do my job for $48,000, and y'all can do your job," Duncan offered, shortly before the 3-0 vote. (Board members Josh Winbourne and Andrew Watts did not attend Tuesday's session).

The ESD's budget was approved at $648,294 but included the $209,000 anticipated from the I-20 land sale.

The district budget also includes debt payments of $106,000 for the two ambulance notes and a $39,000 payment owed this year on a recent renovation to the district's headquarters at Santo EMS.

In other action Tuesday, the board agreed to buy a $3,309 automatic electronic defibrillator for use at Cody Park where the Santo Youth Sports Association plays.

AEDs are simple electronic resuscitation machines designed for lay people to use to restart a heart. They increasingly are found at public venues and workplaces.

Sports association president Michael Foster told the board Santo ISD, which maintains the field, has an AED at hand but only school personnel can access it because of a Texas Education Agency legal constraint.

He added that many of the association's coaches work as emergency medical technicians or paramedics.

"I just think it would be great to have one (AED) in the concession stand," he said, before noting the association owns the park and concession stand. "So we can use it until Santo EMS gets there."

The district's attorney, Howard Katz, insisted several times during discussion that there be a written agreement spelling out who is responsible for the device.

With commissioners Mark Hukel, Paul Smith and President Ron Daily attending Tuesday's meeting, Smith and Daily agreed to buy the device for Santo EMS and let the ambulance service place it at Cody Park, "at its discretion."