Craig City Council discusses measures for COVID-19 recovery and more in latest meeting
At the Craig City Council meeting on May 26th, councilors voted on two key bids from community members; one concerning Craig EMS from the Chief Nursing Officer at MRH, and the other a local business grant fund “Craig Strong” created by a local business owner to boost reopenings.
The meeting was closed to the public and broadcast on YouTube.
POTENTIAL EMS MILL LEVY
The first presentation came from Amy Peck MS, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Memorial Regional Health, in a funding request in the amount of $17,500 to initiate a mill levy (property tax where one mill is $1 per $1,000 assessed value) to form an EMS district on the ballot for 2021. Peck referred to a few virtual meetings she attended in which the City Councilors said they “really felt that a mill levy was probably the way (they) could sustain EMS” because, “financially, there is no way that we could all come up with three quarters of a million dollars to sustain the EMS program.” She noted that last year, the cost of EMS was over one million dollars and overall, the loss was around $700,000.
In order to place a mill levy on taxpayers, a new EMS district would need to be drawn. To first get the mill levy on the ballot, according to an attorney who Peck consulted, there needs to be a service plan approved by the county, an approval from the court, and a strategic election campaign. Peck ended her presentation by asking for the support of the council to get the EMS district on the ballot next year.
Mayor Jarrod Ogden responded to Peck’s bid with the thought of placing EMS within the fire district, to avoid redrawing districts.
Councilor Tony Bohrer expressed a concern that after the high cost of an election campaign, taxpayers would vote against the measure and cause a setback, time and finance-wise, for EMS. He asked if the hospital was willing to take EMS “underneath their umbrella.” Peck reiterated that while EMS brings patients and is helpful to the hospital, the program is not sustainable.
Mayor Ogden said his concern was before “moving forward with this particular plan,” the next step would be for Peck to represent the hospital in the conversation with the fire board.
Peck said the purpose of bringing the plan to the City Council was to give them a chance to think about and get it into their budget ahead of time.
The fire department currently operates with 3.4 mill levies. Councilor Chris Nichols noted that EMS makes about 2,000 runs per year while the fire district makes around 540.
According to City Council, the school district and the Recreation Foundation Group might ask for their own mill levies on the ballot this year and in 2021, respectively.
Later in the meeting, after Peck had left, Council returned to a discussion of the presentation. They decided to table the discussion until all entities involved have been presented with the plan, and after there has been more conversation.
Another large portion of the meeting was the discussion of the Craig Strong Campaign, brought to Council by Kirstie McPherson of Edeveco PR & Marketing Company, who attended the meeting virtually. McPherson, along with Jeremy Browning, who co-owns screen printing shop Chaos Ink in Craig with his wife, launched the campaign to offer grants through funds obtained by t-shirt sales. The shirts were made at Chaos Ink.
McPherson said that their aim for funding was well below their ending total of $17,500. McPherson said that so far, all of the businesses that have applied have been those that were closed during the pandemic, and all but one of the applications were seeking funding for inventory (the exception was an application for marketing help). McPherson came to City Council after being advised by Councilwoman Andrea Camp to do so, but council members all agreed that McPherson and her husband need not go through City Council.
Mayor Ogden said that he didn’t want to “slow the momentum” of Craig Strong and that it “feels cleaner to just… let them roll with what (they’re) doing and… put it in our EDC Grant Fund Program and leave that money in the responsibility of Bruce” (Bruce Nelson, finance director).
Craig also is offering a COVID-19 Business Relief Grant which can award up to $3,000 per person/ business owner. It will be introduced after Craig Strong finishes.
Two councilors abstained from voting on the motion to match funding due to having applied for the grant (Councilwoman Camp) and having a spouse who works for Edeveco with McPherson (Councilman Ryan Hess).
Councilman Nichols introduced the motion to not approve a match in funding, and the motion carried.
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